Reviews

23 Nov 2020

Karl Mangi Review

Initial Impressions

Alex Vecchietti’s album When The Nothing Shines Upon brings together his guitar chops, expressive voice and powerful lyrics to create an emotive work. Along with the background of interlinking synths, strong percussion and contrasts between light and dark, the whole album makes for an engaging listening experience.

The lyrics to the songs on When The Nothing Shines Upon are worth mentioning as they delve into dark, challenging ideas and provide a shadowy contrast to the overall energy of the album. I am drawn to Alex Vecchietti’s ability to bare difficult subjects in his writing and to express them so clearly and sharply.

It helps that he has an expressive voice that is able to illustrate the starkness of his writing and limn the emotions that tear out of the music itself with sharpness. Alex Vecchietti is a singer who obviously puts his heart and soul into the material he’s written and allows the listener access to his self-expression.

On top of these factors, he’s also a superb guitarist. He is able to make the guitar sing and cry, sometimes slicing like a blade and other times soaring, always there to add to the emotional quality of his song writing and emphasize what he's trying to express clearly. The solos show off his dexterity, but it’s the emotion that comes through most intensely for me.

There’s a layered complexity to the way in which the synth parts, the bass and the drums interact with one another on When The Nothing Shines Upon. They all weave into one cohesive tapestry with many ear-grabbing parts. The entirety of the sound makes for a backdrop that continues to support the expression of the other elements of the music while keeping things interesting.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“When The Nothing Shines Upon” comes to life with rebounding hollow-sounding synths that bounce out a pattern as they are joined by female choral voices. Now there are throbbing militaristic drums and the dramatic sound of a full orchestra swelling into the music. The hollow, rebounding pattern of synth is joined by a higher cutting sound while bass oscillates to establish a solid beat and a high, shifting pattern of chiming synth moves over it.

Now the guitar plays an evolving line while the percussion glides along and the mechanical sounding synth is joined by moving chimes. The segment in which the guitar spins out a bright toned series of notes along with glowing synth and shifting, circling chimes is especially interesting to me. I am also drawn to the solo in which the crying, yearning guitar cascades into the music.

The opening of “Alone” resembles the beginning of “When The Nothing Shines Upon” without any orchestral or choral elements, but the energy is different as the big-sounding retro drums throb and the electric guitar smoothly cruises into the music, playing a shifting pattern of minor key notes.

There’s a rising burst of high synth before bright chimes shine into the music. The slight twang in the guitar’s tone is something I like in this track. There’s a brief break as drifts of slowly evolving guitar kick in before the energy ramps up again. There’s a strong guitar part that is high and leaping here as well.

“Seduction” kicks off with the bright clash of synth and feeling of open space. The percussion sounds are powerfully retro here and the entire song bursts with a New Wave sensibility. Alex Vecchietti’s voice is expressive and matches the feeling of the track. There’s a pleasing glide and drift of synth moving over the throbbing beat in this track. The shine of the synths contrasts with the dark message of the lyrics as the guitar now soars into the track.

The sense of pain, desire and loss is palpable in this song. As it opens, the narrator speaks of being left to “live a life of lies without a sense of truth.” There’s a sense of struggle in the lines, “Tried to solve a puzzle of existence in my youth. All the while I craved for something pure to cleanse my eyes.”

Instead of finding that purity he craved the narrator found that “Death instead was in my bed and craving my demise.” The chorus emphasizes this fall in the lines, “I threw my love into a world so far .You caught it and left it into coal tar.”

The narrator speaks of being thrown into a “pit of leeches, sucking out my soul” and spiralling into a “rollercoaster of sex without control.” He speaks of the pain when “every time I grew attached, I'd take a knife right into the heart” and adds “I kept my distance and we grew far apart.” The one thing that he says the person mentioned will never feel is his shame.

The narrator explains, “I'll try to steer clear of you, as the woman that corrupted my soul, a reminder of all my pain.” He adds that she will never get to feel his pain and as the chorus repeats, there is bitterness in the lines “I threw my love into a world so cold. You caught it and left it to grow so old.”

As the song concludes he says, “Jahve washes away the sin, the pain you brought to me…”

There’s a coldness to the opening of “Descent” with pulses of static forming a pattern of sound that flows into the spaces around them. There’s a unique synth that has a round, computerized sound to it along with bass that pulses out in uneven waves as the drums drive steadily. The lead synth has a quality of expanding outward as the pulse of thick sound under it adds energy to the track.

There’s something addictive about the combination of bass pulse and a high pattern of repetitive sound that forms. There’s an interesting rebounding feeling to this track as a warmer layer of synth rises from underneath to mellow the track with harsher bursts of sound moving through.

“Flesh of My Blood” starts with chiming synth sounds vibrating into open space as a steady beat and expanding hollow synth sounds open into the music. There’s a sort of chant-like quality as Alex Vecchietti begins to sing while the rough-edged bass pulse that drives the track forward along with the drums.

The guitar cries out over the throbbing bas and drums. The track feels surprisingly uplifting for the darkness of the lyrics. Alex Vecchietti is an axe man par excellence as he lets that guitar loose on the track.

The lyrics to this song are full of darkness, weight and ache. It pours with shadow as the narrator says, “I’ve tried to float in the deep, to avoid the weight of my body The rest sounds obsolete, I live by the creed of sorry.” There is a sense of being mocked in the lyrics, “The life i now regret, taunts me from the other side.”

The imagery is stark in the line, “On my head you placed a bet and the jackpot is my suicide” and even the narrator's friends have turned on him. As he says, “My friends are all backed up, by guardians with bladed looks.”

The sense of decay and loss is emphasized in the words, “I used to smile but now I rot, hanging from these butcher’s hooks” as the narrator goes on to say, “I feel labeled, I feel sold, I abuse of my aggression, I am a killer with a heart of gold.”

Raw pain rips from the words of the chorus in the lines, “You were the flesh of my blood ,the blood in my veins, you cut my 2 wrists to cover your stains.” The feeling of betrayal is clear in the words, “You were the flesh of my blood, the crown in my reign, you gave me these fists, they drown me in pain.”

There’s a subversion of the idea of seeing the “child in everyone” as the narrator adds, “every child has his own gun, the gun is made just from his fears, eating those who dare come near.”

A sense of delusion and confusion flows from the lyrics in lines like, “seeing things as they appear, not being forced to make things clear” as there is a plea “to listen and not just to hear, to free yourself from all your fears.”

This plea is turned aside as the narrator says he’s, “looking at the world, just with my eyes, not with my mind, not seeing the mistakes, not seeing all the lies.”
As the song ends, he aches to be able to say “hello, it’s been a while” and not see the “hate behind your smile” as he craves to be “in love and not in lust, turning my heart now into dust.”

Thick washes of dense medium-high synth flow out into the open spaces of “The Siege of Amygdala” as it begins while higher synth notes create a sound in a catchy pattern and a hard driving tech-y beat rams into the track and propels it forward. I especially like the unique percussion sound that comes in with a punch.

There’s a lead melody with a minor tinge which adds shape to the music, but it really takes off when the guitar solo soars and slams into the track. There’s a great feeling of energy and propulsion from the guitar. The track circles to the “A” section before flying guitar notes cut over the pounding beat. There’s a lot of density and layering to this track.

Verdict

When The Nothing Shines Upon has a sense of laying things bare and expressing emotions and thoughts that are shadowy and challenging. Alex Vecchetti’s abilities to write strong lyrics, create musical tapestries and channel his feelings into sound are all quite apparent on this album. I felt drawn in and engaged while I listened which is never a bad sign.

31 Oct 2020

Synth wave chart September

Joint 1st Place

Caskets by Cymatica feat. Terena

Caskets opens on warmly rippling waves of synth sound that flow out through the track as a smoothly gliding guitar dances above those waves. The drums have a steady pulse as all of those bright, airy moments of synth glow through the music. Terena’s voice is gentle and warm as she delivers the well-written lyrics over the tranquil, smooth music that flows underneath.

The beat throbs into the music as the synth bass throbs out the beat underneath along with drums that add some shape to the music. The guitar adds a tasteful smoothness to the song and the spinning arpeggios that dance through the music add more shine to everything.

There’s a wandering, energetic guitar solo that soars over the oscillating synth behind it. I enjoy the bluesy feeling of the guitar and there’s some blues influence on the solo in my view. I also like how the track closes out on a wash of delicate piano notes gliding into open space.


Teenage Feeling by Michael Kross

Teenage Feeling starts as bright, light arpeggios shine above powerful drums and deep bass that adds a propulsive feeling to the song are joined by a howling, rocking guitar and Michael Kross’s strong soaring vocals. The synths dance and shimmer as Kross belts out a tale of youthful love and emotion while the chorus fills the music with passion and joy. The retro vibe is strong here, but well balanced with modern production.

Michael Kross is ear and clean in his delivery as he sings the lyrics that express all that hope and wonder that we seek to recapture from our youth. The guitar solo sings out with a similarly strong sense of hope and passion while a quick arpeggio with a “tech-y” sound spins out through the music. I do enjoy the charging drive of this song as it throbs onward with real conviction. I like the feeling of open air in the track and the little flashes of bright energy but it’s definitely the vocal performance that makes Teenage Feeling stand out.

Second Place

Star Blur by Eden Future

Star Blur is lead by Eden Future’s guitar as it flies out over the pounding synth bass and moving drums. It has a voice full of passion and energy while the synths are more shadowed and minor. There’s a feeling of flowing movement behind it, as heavier sounds rumble and throb underneath it. The guitar solo that comes in carries us into hyperdrive through the stars as the lighter synth sparkles occasionally shine through. That lead guitar tone has power in it that only deepens the intensity of the song.

Eden Future is clearly a confident, skilled axe master and it shows. There’s a general sense of triumphant rising energy about the guitar work here and it blends nicely with the other elements. There’s melodic energy to this track and I enjoy how Eden Future creates strong imagery in this track, producing a feeling of the stars blurring as a spacecraft launches into hyperdrive.

09 Sep 2020

Jak Syn comments on RRR

Jak Syn and RRR have hocked up and Jack will be doing  label wide interviews to cover our roster. Here is a little of what he said pre-interview after checking out our catalog. 



Alex Vecchietti - Great Vocal Driven Retro/Synthwave music, Alex has a great hold on that dynamic Vocal driven Synth sound, drawing me into his creativity with his rad releases, showing the emotion that is conveyed through each of his songs opened me up to his world, between the mysterious vibes and his powerful dance grooves, he made me want to get up and get down. Great stuff. 


Honeybeard - These two have a very great haunting retro vibe that really melds well together, definitely very unique in many ways, flooded with the flowing waves of sexy grooves it really hits you in all the right ways, emotive in powerful ways yet soft in its touch made me want to sit back and listen intently in the dark and drift away into a lovely world long forgotten in the echoes of time.

 

Dark Smoke Signal - I love how in your face he is with his sound, that Darksynth destructive sound that really makes you want to get up and Rage, and then he has a softer side during his recent release as well, it really took me on a journey of that hellish Dark almost Heavenly sound. 


Le Groupe Fantastique - They had a very funky element to their sound, one that really made me want to get up and move my hips to that downright funky electro jam, I enjoyed the release very much and look forward to hearing much more.


The Subtheory - He took me on a Journey, atmospheric with his sound, sometimes cinematic, his sound was all about the mood, transported you to different areas of thought, moving you in dynamic ways.


Eden Future - Straight up Futuristic sound, brought me into that cyberpunk world where the only laws are the way of the sound and the power within, he definitely conveys the vision of his dark future world with his fast-paced retro futuristic synth driven music, transported me to a distant time and made me want to go fast, very Fast!


level86 - To me this Level86 was very unique, I say this because it reminded me of what Synthwave/Retrowave Doo-Wop wound sound like, its synth driven but it has those small elements that you find in the sound from the era of the 50s and 60s, and the voices make it feel heavenly. In my personal opinion it can in a way fit very well with a favorite movie of mine Grease, I loved it, it was definitely fun.

   

Cybertronix - He has that sound that one would find in the era of new synth-based music from years gone by, it layers on the synths and arpeggiations that drive you forward on his unique journey, taking you forward into the realm of musical consciousness.

 

Alenis - She has a great sound, her release Find you was superb, sucked me in to her Dreamy Synthwave world where you know he sound makes you move in a wonderful way. uplifting and yet inspired by those dark sounds, they really blend very well together. Definitely looking to hear much more.

  

Macapella - Man of man what a sound that takes me back to the era of the undercover vice world, everything from the sexy sax to the funky beats leads me down a rabbit hole of nostalgic sounds that would lend itself to that seedy underworld of corruption and decadence. It has its elements of hip hop, jazz and disco and all of those elements speak directly to me.


Deltawave82 - He took me on a journey back to the era of the hero versus the villain, the era of the 8 to 16-bit videogames that I fell in love with as a child, it transported me to that action videogame world where the levels get harder but the rewards get sweeter as you progress through his sound. Everything from the retro inspired synths to the nostalgic feel holds itself true to his sound.

 

corp86 - They emitted a unique direction with their sound, pulling from their love of nostalgic pop and retrowave into their world that is in a way inspired by the mood and attitude of post punk. They hold true to their Argentinian roots as song writers and bring that dreamy element to their retro inspired electronic sound, conveying emotion, passion, and drive.

 

Treyeful - Driving forward the sound that is inspired by multiple genres, the release Neon Green drops me into their world from the start drawing me into their raw electro bass lines and dynamic synth-based sound, giving me the sense of being deep in a seedy future club watching the night play out to the sound of their electronic vision.


Dr Jinx - Drawing inspiration from the era of the 80s and 90s action movie genre, took me on a bit of a trip, helping me to remember that feel of the what made those movies so great, the soundtrack vibe, but also giving me a view into the universe beyond with the sci-fi element inspired by wonderful cinematic dreams, the glimpse into the world that is DJ Jinx is killer.  


07 Sep 2020

August Chart review

Review is coming soon

07 Sep 2020

July Chart review

Review is coming soon!

31 Jul 2020

June chart winners

Transhumanism - Ditsea Yella


“Transhumanism” by Ditsea Yella is a dark, glitchy meditation on how we’re trapped by technology and the digital world. It’s a sharp critique of the direction societies are taking when it comes to the virtual. There’s a technological sound to the music with broken beats that speed along. The darkness of the music is a complement to the dystopia that the words outline. It is a worrisome vision that they express.


The rough-edged musical elements support the cutting lyrical flow and imbue the whole track with a sense of darkness and weight that complements the biting social commentary. This is a track that hits hard and fills the atmosphere with a feeling of propulsive energy. The lyrics are well worked out and cleanly delivered, increasing the impact of their message. Ditsea Yella have the writing chops and musical skills to ensure their vision is clearly articulated to the listener.



Medusa - The Elite


“Medusa” by The Elite has a complexity to it as it roams from the minor sounding, slightly dark synth line that opens the track through to a warmer lead synth that glows over the steadily throbbing beat that adds propulsion and motion to the music. The melody is uplifting and has a gentle quality to it as it soars over the steady heartbeat of the percussion and the rolling bass that flows underneath it.


The track accelerates into a faster section where tightly clustered notes fly along to infuse the music with more energy and power before returning to the more sweeping, glowing sound that defines the track. The way in which all of these parts are layered and intertwined keeps the listener engaged and carried along by the music, while the main melody shines warmly out over the other elements of the track.



Miami Nights - Mantus


There’s a great feeling of energy about “Miami Nights” by Mantus as those bright arps wheel out into the track and the classic synthwave drumbeat accelerates the music forward. A second and more airy arpeggiation spins into the music over the bass and drum throb. This was a piece of music that conjured up the feeling of passing under the neon glow of city lights as the night winds blows on your face.


The main synth line has a very upbeat and energetic quality as it dances through the music. This is a piece that shines and glides along easily. There are wind-like sounds that float through as glowing, lustrous sensations fill the listener’s ears. Everything in this track fused together to generate something bright and smooth. The combination of shiny arps, that addictive beat and smooth flow created a track that captures the best parts of the original synthwave sound.


Miami Mutilator - das cät


There is darkness and danger in “Miami Mutilator” by das cät. The track opens with a powerful, dark bass throb that rapidly moves underneath swirling dissonance and a pulse of drum rhythm. Synth twists and winds into the track as bass depth growls underneath the clustered high synth chords, feeling weighty and menacing. A high fluting synth cuts through the dark walls of rough edged sound around it as everything is driven by the insistent beat.


The main synth has a bending, warping quality to it as it plays a wandering melody. There’s a deep feeling of threat that lurks in this track, a sense that something terrible is waiting just out of sight. All of the elements of the track play a game of contrast and balance, so that the end result produces strong imagery and creates an atmosphere of menace that permeates the entire track.




Tracks reviewed by: Karl Magi



03 Mar 2020

Synthpop EP Review: "Whisper of Light" by Honey Beard

Review of New EP Whisper of Light

Whisper of Light is an EP full of floating atmospheres and soaring synths that dance around heavier and darker lyrical content. I’d describe the overall content of this album as darkly ethereal. The lyrics combine melancholy, introspection and emotion and the sonic landscape is drenched in atmospherics. There’s a light touch on the synths, but it is counterbalanced by the rumble of the bass and the propulsive force of the percussion.

The EP's Mood

Catchy, hooky melodies are not a part of Whisper of Light, but in this case I don’t think they are necessary. Some listeners might want more infectious melodies but the mood of this EP really wasn’t meant, in my view, to be pure pop. That isn’t to say that the melodies are lacking, just that they aren’t these shiny, happy sounding things in the same way as they might be on something with a more saccharine pop-oriented sound.

The musical bed for this EP has been well produced and it acts as a firm foundation for the song craft that’s on display. The showcasing of the emotional content is achieved with sounds that keep the ear engaged, reflecting the sentiments being expressed.

The lyrics are carefully crafted and well-performed. There’s an aching and a yearning, almost painful that comes through in the words. I feel that a sense of loss pervades much of the album. It is counterbalanced by the sonic energy that pushes the music forward. Layers of arps, pads, drums and bass create a real fullness to the sound that is in contrast to the words.

This album has a strong flavour of the kind of ‘80s synthpop that I really enjoy. It combines light and darkness, sadness and warmth in equal measures. It holds up the torch for synthpop and pushes it forward into this new era where hope is a little more tarnished and things seem less clearly to be making progress than they did back in the ‘80s.

My Favorite Tracks

Under the Ferris Wheel is a track that sounds like it might be a piece of retro nostalgia, until one actually listens to what the lyrics are saying, and then we find ourselves in a much less comfortable place. Somehow, the soft washes of sound that swirl around it only serve to emphasize those discomforting elements in the song.

There is something about the track entitled Full of Stars that catches and holds my attention. I can’t precisely pinpoint it, but the overall mood has such a quality of aching to it that I find myself constantly putting it on repeat.

Honey Beard's Use of Melancholy

Melancholy is a necessary part of this EP. I think one of the reasons that Whisper of Light works out so well is the fact that it isn’t totally positive and upbeat. The hints of darkness and thwarted emotion are a strong element that holds the whole EP together. There is, at least for me, an element of catharsis in this kind of melancholy.

Why You Should Listen to This EP

The combination of the emotional punch of the lyrics with the driving beats, drifting pads and sounds that sometimes soar, and sometimes touch the depths, make Whisper of Light an enjoyable listening experience.

03 Mar 2020

Synthwave EP Review: Fight or Flight by S.C.A.R.T.

S.C.A.R.T’s latest EP Fight or Flight is a study in contrasts between warm, soaring synth melodies and powerful driving beats, between light and darkness where shimmering arpeggios sparkle over a heavy rumble of bass. Fight or Flight offers up intriguing changes of key, rhythm and melody that keep the ear engaged. I’d say that it has moved onto a different plane than the music which kicked off the genre. Perhaps the difference has more to do with exploring a broader sonic palette than anything all that directly tangible, but I feel that the difference is what makes Fight Or Flight work.

A big part of why I found Fight or Flight an interesting listen is how S.C.A.R.T manages to create layers of sounds that grow one on top of the other. Just when you think you know what’s happening, a new sound or a new rhythm comes along to change your direction. It isn’t done in a way that’s disconcerting, but it does mean that boredom isn’t something that happens here. In my view, S.C.A.R.T has an affinity for creating soundscapes that seamlessly integrate a wide variety of textures and shadings.

I like the way in which each of the elements that make up Fight or Flight have been carefully considered. The synth melodies fit nicely into the tracks and interact well with the bass, the drums are prominent but not overly so and the arps have the right sort of glistening quality that one expects from them. It’s clear that he took his time in setting out the various elements to create a harmonious whole.

What’s interesting here is the way that some of the sounds that can be found in other synthwave tracks are combined. They don’t produce the sort of classic synthwave sound, but instead something that has a simmering tension and sinister elements without actually spilling over into darkwave territory.

For an EP, this feels extremely cohesive and complete. As a work, it has a good sense of being all of a piece. One track flows into another with no jarring transitions or strange juxtapositions to upset the flow. Some people like EPs to be a little more eclectic as if to showcase many facests of a producer/musician’s work but I am rather happier when it gels and hangs together.

I recommend Fight or Flight for anyone who wants an imaginative journey through varied and unique auditory landscapes whicih are able to elicit emotional responses in the listener. It takes the building blocks of synthwave but assembles them in a way that is fresh. S.C.A.R.T is a producer for whom I will keep listening out and awaiting his next exploration with interest.

03 Mar 2020

Synthwave Album Review: "The Good Fight"—Alex Vecchietti

The first thing that struck me about about Alex Vecchietti's new album The Good Fight has to be his guitar playing. The man can shred, dance, and absolutely fly on the guitar. This adds enormous listening value to the album. Since so many synthwave artists have roots that encompass metal and rock, it isn’t as if guitar is rare on synthwave albums, but I feel that Alex Vecchietti's guitar playing is on a higher plane than more generic guitar work. There’s something special about his sound that really makes listening to his playing addictive. But, there's so much more that makes this a phenomenal album.

The Lyrics

Even though his guitar work is phenomenal, it doesn't wash out the power of his voice, which is strong, clear and able to deliver the emotion behind his lyrics. This is a very passionate album. The lyrics are well-constructed and he’s clearly put a great deal of his soul into this album.

The Album's Main Theme

While much of synthwave has taken a turn into darker, more dystopic territory lately, The Good Fight has turned away from the darkness and instead focuses on positivity. It's a meditation on how one might seek the light. Of course, Alex Vecchietti doesn’t shy away from challenging themes, like his discussion of ignorance and the turning away from knowledge, but most of the album is a call to embrace the light and to hold onto those things for which we feel love and passion.

I especially liked the balance between darker sounds and some very warm and gentle moments. It felt like I was being taken on a journey. These contrasting moments kept my attention for the entire album.

The Instrumental Tracks

The instrumental tracks are a good chance for Alex Vecchietti to showcase his skills as a guitar master and his overall ability to compose a powerful, energetic and at times, beautiful instrumental tune. When he’s not shredding, there are lyrical passages with well-crafted melodies.

His Use of Synthesizers

The choice of synthesizers he uses on this album are well-considered. Whether they are light and airy or dark and crunchy, the synths only bolster the sound. When combined with strong melodies, the overall effect is really enjoyable to hear.

The Mix

The other thing I’d note is that the interplay between the guitar, synths, percussion and bass is well-judged. While the guitar is definitely showcased, it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the recording. Everything sits nicely in the mix.

Overall Review

Overall, I feel that The Good Fight is a strong mixture of well-written lyrics, smokin’ guitar licks, strong melodies and singing that delivers emotional content very effectively. It feels like a strong expression of the things that animate Alex Vecchetti as a songwriter and as a human being. If you’re looking to be lifted up and hear a musical vision that turns towards hope in spite of the darkness, I’d definitely suggest checking this album out.

03 Mar 2020

Synth Single Review: Dark Smoke Signal, "Tearing the Wings Off an Angel"

Alex Pope (Dark Smoke Signal) is a synth music producer from Bristol in the UK. His music is influenced by "'80s hair metal guitar, served with a twist of Yamaha DX7 and lashings of reverb." His single “Tearing the Wings Off an Angel” definitely has the psychological weight that one would associate with metal, along with lyrics that take a dive into dark territory. What’s interesting is that, in spite of all that heaviness, there’s a rising, soaring melody that seems in direct contrast to the darkness explored here.

Pope has a strong singing voice that can stand up to the layers of synth, bass and drums that interlock and interact on this track. His voice also has the punch to deliver the undeniably dark lyrics that he’s written for this song.

The lyrics themselves have some extremely powerful moments in them. I was especially taken by verses like, “Silhouettes in a line, a thousand shadows dancing at a time/Dripping blood red wine.” The imagery that these words generate really resonates with me. I was also taken by the line that gives the impression of a jagged wound barely held together by “feathered tar” which in and of itself has the connotation of being cast out.

The chorus is interesting because it starts with a reference to tearing the wings off “an angel” and saying, “there’s a black mark running through my heart” the first time and then switching it to “tearing the wings off your angel/now the black mark is seeping through your heart.” It is as if whatever is making the black mark in his heart is contagious and he’s infecting the other person with that contagion.

Musically, this is a song of contrasts, from the ethereal and shimmering introduction to the thick, heavy bass and between little sparkles of synth and the weight of the lyrics brooding in and around them. I’m struck by how the main melody soars in contradistinction to the darkness of the words that Pope is singing.

I found the balance of elements in "Tearing The Wings Off An Angel" gave this single a really intriguing, ear capturing quality. There’s something about pairing darkness and light, weight and airiness that ended up holding my attention throughout. It’ll be interesting to see how this song fits into the album of which it’s a part.

03 Mar 2020

Synth EP Review: "Ventura Blvd" by The Subtheory

The Subtheory has created a dark, futuristic auditory world on his Ventura Blvd EP. It evokes a city full of corruption, danger and crime through its cold, technological and sometimes sparse soundscape. This is a recording full of mood and atmosphere that generated strong imagery for me as it unfolded each track.

Ventura Blvd’s musical content is definitely full of cool shadows. Those shadows come from the thick bass that rolls underneath the music, the synths that project cold and sometimes mechanistic tones and the sense of menace that oozes from the minor key melodies that move through that dark background.

The dense net of heavy drumbeats and weighty bass is an important part of the mood of Ventura Blvd in my view. The way those two elements interact produce a sensation of threat and menace that permeates all of the tracks and adds to the gritty picture painted by the other elements of the music.

I alluded to the synth choices that The Subtheory had made earlier because I think they had a strong effect on the feel of this album. Rather than going for the warm tones that analog synths can produce, he has focused on icy, robotic or tech-y sounds that create a more minimalist and threatening feeling. I think that Ventura Blvd’s ability to create imagery wouldn’t be as effective without having taken that route.

The production values on this recording are worth commenting on. It has a crisp sound to it that really conveys each musical element clearly and also manages to emphasize the drum and bass sounds without allowing them to take over the whole EP.

As this is an EP, I’ll comment on each of the tracks on Ventura Blvd in turn and discuss what I found interesting about them.

To preface the start of the aural “movie” that The Subtheory has created, “Shiny Things” starts off with a retro TV announcer to introduce the recording. All of the sonic elements glide coolly on this track. The tech-y synth sounds flow in waves and the dark bass and drums add an element of shadow to the music. The repeating synth pulses and expanding arps add a sweeping feeling to this track.

“Two Years” opens with spinning arps that rise and fall over crunchy synth bass. It has a coldness to it and the electric guitar on the track adds a certain bite to the music, although it is kept a little back in the mix. The distance of it only adds to the atmosphere here. The high, computerized sounding synth melody that comes into the track reinforces the sense of futuristic darkness that fills this EP.

The combination of pulsing bass, thumping drums and slightly hollow sounding arps with a minor key melody creates a sense of tension on “Ventura Blvd.” The extending synth chords add shadings of more darkness to the track and the flow of the synths contrasts with the unrelenting drum and bass movements underneath them.

“Venger’s Revenge” combines a darkly throbbing beat, a unique metallic sounding synth and a certain amount of dissonance. The synth notes have a hollow, cold tone as they move through the track. The synth melody here is dense and has just a hint of distortion at points which further cements the menacing feeling of the track.

The Subtheory has managed to, in a short space, paint a sonic landscape that had quite a bit of depth to it on Ventura Blvd. It is full of shade and weight, swept by cold and computerized sounds and drenched in an atmosphere of barely contained threat. It’s a sonic world I hope The Subtheory will return to again.