Following the acclaim for his accomplished and acclaimed third album ‘Infinity Mirror’, Ryan A James returns as MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY with his latest long form release ‘Bloods, Side A’.
MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY has been held in such high regard that Ryan A James has worked with notable artists such as RÖYKSOPP and IONNALEE. Having become a father, James’ perspective has changed and while shoegaze may have been an element to MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY in the past, the synthwave overtures of acts across the Atlantic like COM TRUISE, FM ATTACK and BETAMAXX have caught his attention.
But also having released a cover of Phil Collins’ ‘Another Day In Paradise’ in 2020, the MTV era of decades past has also figured. From ‘Infinity Mirror’, the song ‘Beta Blocker’ was a sign of his future musical direction, featuring a meaty programmed electronic bassline of the type adopted by PROPAGANDA and FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.
Beginning with ’Pilot’ and accompanied by subtle stuttering beats, this is a short delightful instrumental that showcases the influence of both FM ATTACK and BETAMAXX. But the excellent ’Savannah’ springs a total surprise with a dreamier take on the sort of rhythmic new wave pop that adorned many a John Hughes or Jerry Bruckheimer movie montage and at times, it sounds as though it might morph into a track by expat Scot popwave exponent Michael Oakley.
Drawing from COM TRUISE, the moodier ’Gardener In A War’ features a great self-deprecating line about how “I’ll wash the petri dish for you”. Although it is more typically MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY in its introspective outlook and presentation, as its intensity is enhanced by a hypnotic cacophony of electronics, there are also unexpected Shakuhachi samples and programmed bass patterns with shades of Howard Jones.
Short but sweet, despite being less than a minute and a quarter, ’Our Silences’ gives room for a fabulous freeform synth solo before ’Ultra-Nightmare’ closes the A Side and sees the return of the Shakuhachi while the driving pulse journeys onto an expansive synthwave adventure with a sinister manipulated voice creeping back and forth to provoke a sense of unease.
With guitar seemingly absent, ‘Bloods, Side A’ acts as a fine pointer as to how MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY has evolved. While the sound remains melodic and reflective, Ryan A James has headed West and is now even more electronic than before; ‘Side B’ is now eagerly awaited to complete the set.
COM TRUISE is well known in the world of synthwave, being often cited as one of the greatest in the genre, providing sci-fi synth delicacies of the otherworldly type.
An obvious play on the name of one of the most prolific Hollywood actors, New Yorker COM TRUISE was born Seth Haley. Currently working out of Los Angeles, while his previous long player brought a completion of a space saga concept, the new opus ‘Persuasion System’ concentrates on the changes on our planet, in the present tense.
With Haley switching digital audio work stations, the mini LP began as an experiment, created in a more fluid, unregimented way, with the outcome being a non-linguistic utopia of today.
If you’re in the market for wild retro dancing á la TIFFANY, this record isn’t for you; the receiver is to plug in into something timeless, eclectic and out of space, instrumental style. Whether it’s gracious beats of ‘Ultrafiche Of You’ or ‘Gaussian’, or perhaps more melodic piano of ‘Kontex’ which works as a perfect cinematic piece, COM TRUISE has it all to suit any tastes of gaming geek or hardcore synthwaver.
Described as COM TRUISE’s “most grounded work to date”, ‘Persuasion System’ ideally reaches out to the borders of unknown universes, transcending the message of peace and hope, like on ‘Existence Schematic’, with its sublime progressions and elaborate electric schemes.
‘Laconism’ generates some urgency, while ‘Privilege Escalation’ leads flatly to ‘Departure’ from the ordinary.
The album’s eponymous track is possibly the strongest here, sounding like a form of FM or karplus synthesis, gently modulating into an extravaganza of Earthly gravitation forces.
While this is not for everyone, what the elaborate experiment has done for Haley is free him of “expectations and permitted a process that echoed the tones of more immediate external environments. A gravity had seeped in; resulting material shifts between bleakness and sublime suspense, awe at the expanse of existing, in looking back and letting go”.
‘Persuasion System’ is released on 17th May 2019 by Ghostly International in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats
“The natural way of the cultural wave: we generally experience that musical and cultural trends shift from an outstanding position within public opinion to near utter rejection, refusal and ridicule, through an ever-shortening period of time. However, if that period of time is extended, to often several decades, we can witness a renovation, a new heightened recognition – the rebirth of the wave. Through today’s global reach, powered by the internet, cultural waves and fascinations can resurface and manifest themselves, with an even much bigger fan impact than the original source.”
And so The Synths rise, to combat the ordinary, to get ahead, to prove that this isn’t a mere revival; it’s a continuation of the trend started a long time ago, a trend which has been bubbling away in the hearts and minds of many, the army of the underground, which is now unleashing its machines to show the world their supremacy.
‘The Rise Of The Synths’ is the definitive documentary about the electronic music of its mainstream heyday, the nostalgia of those years and the memorable atmosphere created by the likes of GIORGIO MORODER, EDGAR FROESE and JOHN CARPENTER.
The project, backed up by hundreds of modern synth music composers, alongside the daddies of electronica, is a journey in time from its origins, through to the most successful time for synth, into its grunge fuelled denial and the big comeback thanks to the newly discovered social media and its important role in propagating of new music.
Anyone can be an artist these days, the day job is one thing – but why not tinkle on your synths and computers in your spare time? And with the digital outlets sprouting up like mushrooms, anyone can have a chance to hear your music. nostalgia lives through, be it with the lovers of vintage games, computers, equipment, or clothing, to those who just can’t forget the musical excitement upon hearing what synthesisers could do.
JOHN CARPENTER loved the fact that “when synthesisers were first introduced into music, (he) could get a big sound with them, (…) like an orchestra.” And that’s why many got inspired into making fresh sounds which would be impossible to achieve otherwise.
The machines never sleep and 2011 saw ‘Drive’, with its magnificent synthy soundtrack, win the festival’s Best Director Award for Nicolas Winding Refn at the Cannes Film Festival. The movement continues with the superb Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’; not only showcasing the life in provincial America in the Reagan-era, but also a deliciously electronic score, full of analogue goodness straight from the onset intro, which is impossible to skip.
‘The Rise of the Synths’ continues that trend, with numerous lovers of analogue and digital from all around the globe, joining forces to stand against the ordinary and to prove that machines rule. They rule big…
Kicking off with the perfect arpeggios by CHROME CANYON on ‘Deckard Returns’, the compilation promises a perfect listening experience from the onset.
GUNSHIP with ‘The Vale Of Shadows’ takes the reigns next, presenting the London trio of Dan Haigh, Alex Westaway and Alex Gingell; the group have had a very successful release under their belt with the 2015 eponymous album.
POWER GLOVE are best known for writing the soundtrack to the retro-futuristic video game ‘Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’; here, the two Australians plate up ‘Fatal Affair’; a futuristic flick with a twist. ‘Makita’ by GENO LENARDO imagines the machines picking up their weapons and marching against the enemy, all with industrial elements of fear inducing qualities.
Naming his project after the ‘Top Gun’ icon, COM TRUISE aka New Yorker Seth Haley has gathered a substantial following with his “mid-fi synth-wave, slow-motion funk” and here he presents his quirky ‘Idle Withdrawal’.
While DANIEL DAVIS is ‘Lost In Love’ with a melodious pop song, ROBERT PARKER is chasing his ‘Silver Shadow’, and WAVESHAPER are on a ‘Mission To Remember’. If it ever rains for CODE ELEKTRO, it has to be ‘Black Rain’. The drops of arpeggiated downfall descend upon the simple melody, creating an atmosphere of suspense and dread.
But there’s nothing like GERMAN ENGINEERING on ‘The Osbourne Effect’, an experimental Kraftwerkian with the elements of the glorious instrumentals DEPECHE MODE used to provide in the day. The magnificent ‘Triage’ by GIORGIO MORODER, who is joined by RANEY SHOCKNE, passes almost too quickly, before the heavy ‘Night Stalker’ by CARPENTER BRUT appears; the Frenchman wrote music for video games ‘Hotline Miami 2 : Wrong Number’ and ‘The Crew’.
JOHN BERGIN introduces his guitar heavy ‘Crash & Burn’ and calming ‘Fleshman’, both as if taken from a video game. ‘Dead Of Night’ by LA based DANCE WITH THE DEAD could have easily been used in the likes of ‘Footloose’ and is very ‘Eye Of The Tiger’.
LAZERHAWK takes over on ‘A Hero’s Journey’ with filigree synths and cinematic landscapes; Garrett Hays is a founding member of ROSSO CORSA and a very successful electronic producer with a considerable success during the days of MySpace.
OGRE ushers in the era of ‘Rebar (Prologue)’, from Exeter, UK, Robin Ogden is a composer, producer and sound designer. MEGA DRIVE open the ‘Stargate’, a cleverly put together track of sci-fi design, while VOYAG3R closes the album with ‘Appearance Of The Mysterious Traveler’.
Many other artists were involved in the production; music makers from Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Canada joined numerous composers from the US and UK, all to aid the cause and strengthen the position of synth worldwide.
It seems like the trend is catching. The mighty synth has risen and it’s hitting with revenge and its revenge is sweet.