It’s very evident that over time with these reviews, I will probably find records that I really like, but I won’t have enough to say or just won’t have the time to cover. It could be a single I really like, it could be a short EP, it could even be an album that I want to put my two cents on but can’t find enough words to fill a whole review to my standard, maybe Fox covered it and I have a different opinion.
My aim is for every month (Don’t hold this to me) to have this rapid fire review series where I cover these type of releases, and cover each release here in a paragraph or less. The final quarter of 2021 has been particularly friendly, so we got a lot of quality ground. I don’t how many of these I will normally do, but since this is our first, we’re going to do quite a few this time around, starting off with:
Thought Beings - Strange Matter:
Yeah, New Wave is cool, but do you remember when it was super dark in the early 80’s? Thought Beings taps into that for one of this year’s best singles, and that is just the start of this stunning EP. “Alone Again” is a beautiful Cure-esque ballad, and “New Flesh” taps into the same “dark dance” energy Fluid Ghost brings. Be dressed in black and ready to dance!
Best: “Strange Matter”
Ruin of Romantics - Velvet Dawn:
I like Blue Sick. I mean, I really like Blue Sick. Honestly, I wanted to do this review to lay down my comments on Pertubator, but I could not make it through this enough to do a full review.
Best: “Blue Sick”
Kofin - Neo-Coven:
It’s in your face, it’s in your computer, and it’s in your ears at maximum volume. At least I’m sure that’s how Kofin wants you to hear this. I obliged. Mix could be slightly cleaner, but sometimes you will just turn that part of you off that thinks about these things.
Best: “Hex Code”, “God Machine”, “Cybernetic Ritual”
Worst: “Mother Night”
MORIS BLAK - Candyman:
This is indeed a Candyman-theme Industrial Bass banger from MORIS BLAK, and it comes with an addition mix. That really says it all. MORIS BLAK is one of the best at what he does, so let this just be only a single preview of the large consistent output of work one must check out from him.
VH x RR - Shattered Bones:
If I had to make the best case for the maxi single, it would be diving into VH X RR’s catalog, especially this single. The original is a nice taste of the darker edge of Synthpop with the wisdom of a man who has seen many a-year. Every single remix takes its own way to carefully craft its own interpretation with their own paintbrushes. It is beautiful to see a release this consistent, as it rarely occurs.
Best: “Shattered Bones (Mesh Mix)”, “Shattered Bones (Fused Remix)”
Kemikziel - Night Draws High:
Perhaps one of my lesser known preferences until recently has been Gameboy Chiptune. Kemikziel has been doing it quite well for a minute now, and this may be among her finest hours. I do kinda wish this was a few less tracks so it was easier to recommend, but only cause this is quite enjoyable.
Best: “Ectoplasmic Fantastic”, “Darkwind”, “Tendons”, “Shadow Steppin’”
Worst: “Demon’s Blood”
Sapphira Vee - Duet:
The unique clash and artistic craft of Sapphira Vee’s brand of darkness is always a treat to hear. Sapphira’s vocals shine more than ever, and used the opportunity to work with Chris Connelly on “The Unknowing Muse” to create one of the best tracks to his name. The remixes are there, but generally speaking, this is a good place to give Sapphira Vee a try.
Best: “The Unknowing Muse”, “Necessary (Caustic Mix)”
Worst: “The Heart Wants”
Oceanside85 - Hey Sexy:
Shapeshifting from dark princess to neon queen to the new queen of sexy is… shockingly seamless for Oceanside. Whereas Power Rob gains his charisma from being as smooth and charming alongside his powerful harmonies, the charisma here comes from daring, filthy performances that cross genres and vocal styles across the board. It’s all a perfect demonstration that there are many ways to express the sexy and sexual, it just is a matter of the execution as to how tasteful it is.
Best: “Goddess”, “Hot 4 You”, “She Can Get It”
Worst: “Watch Out”
GHOSTECH - Rerun Undead Vol. 2:
The mix could definitely use some polish, but sometimes composition and layering goes a long way to hold a track together. That is certainly the case with this EP, the almost charming combination of cheap horror synths, outrun drum machines, and small flares that make you really feel the passion of this release. Don’t let the score fool you, I enjoyed sitting through this even more than some records I gave the same or a higher score to. Also Outrun + Darkwave on “I Built A Cage”? That’s a great combination that warrants its own sub genre.
Best: “I Built A Cage”
Worst: “Forever In Hell - Reanimated Remix”
Scarless Arms & Star Madman - Endlich:
Sometimes the most innocent of souls hold the most twisted ends of darkness within them. When their darkest side is revealed, it can be just as beautiful as it is horrific to see it come out, assuming no one is hurt. This perhaps best describes how first hearing this track felt.
eLxAr - Looking for the Sound:
There is a lot of fancy stuff going on with this record, it really aims for that “everything but the kitchen sink” approach, but it wears out after a few listens. I was blown away the first day or two, but a lot of other releases came to my ears since then. It’s a strong debut for sure, but one that has me waiting for something a little more lasting. Still, if you want to really see how the world of Retrowave can be dissected and spit back out, let eLxAr be your guide.
Best: “Space Voyager”, “Summer Seaside Run”
Worst: “The Storm”
ELYXIR & Zak Vortex - Your Loss:
I have been stuck between absolutely loving this track and feeling disappointed. It’s not because of ELYXIR, who cruises through this track like a blazing Ferrari, but Zak Vortex has really done better. This is a guy who often does colorful, life-breathing instrumentals at his best, illustrated most recently with covers of “True Colors “with LAU and “Go Your Own Way” with Young Empress. This doesn’t really pick up in the same way, and there is a solo missing somewhere in here. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination bad, but I remember this track being so much better every time I go back to it on my own time. That said, if this is Vortex’s low point and ELYXIR is still earning her outrun cred as she shreds through this instrumental, it’s a good sign for both of them. Give it a listen, but be sure to check their other work afterwards!
Mister the Kid & Dimi Kaye - Darkness:
Some tracks really explain themselves by the artist credits and the track title. This is one of those.
Male Tears - Model Citizen:
While this sort of Boy Harsher-esque sound with the Post Punk-sounding synth riff and big drum beat is getting rather played out, this is a refreshing take on the sound. The vocals go off the walls at certain points, and the key change with the buildup in the hook really lands. The lyrics also give a new meaning to “sold your soul to rock and roll”. It seems James’ only fear is growing old.
Angelspit - Don’t Know Zero:
There’s a lot of EBM that doesn’t require a lot of explaining. The lyrics are antifascist, the industrial drums and bass hit hard, and you occasionally get some big guitar. This doesn’t deviate far from this particular formula, but Angelspit’s particular brand of irony and the fun choice of synths and grooves are a standout. The remixes are mostly solid as well, but if this isn’t your initial forte, stick to the original mix.
Best: “Don’t Know Zero (Original Mix)”, “Come into the Creep (Sister Sarin Remix)”, “Love That Drug”
Worst: “Don’t Know Zero (Tommy Tranq Remix)”
JNNY Cobra - Straight Ballin’ The Left Hand Path:
I really wish I was on this site when this first came out. Nonetheless, this is exceptional, a bizarre combination of 90’s breakdance, vocoders, Darksynth, and occasionally Drumstep. JNNY fine tunes his sound into a meme, a collision course, and a wild ride of irresistible proportions. This and DISCO AGGRO SESSIONS are truly a 1-2 punch.
Best: “Download Complete”, “Total Darkness”, “Raise the Roof and Raise the Dead”, “A Virgin’s Severed Head, Two Fries, and a Coke”, “Can You Mix Grindcore, Hip Hop, and Synths? Yes, But It Sounds Like This”
Worst: “Straight Ballin’ The Left Hand Path” (Still pretty good…)
Power Rob - Monsterman:
A powerhouse in Synthwave vocals takes on a full album, glazing itself in glitzy guitars, catchy synth hooks, and as much polish as your favorite Pop album. This isn’t as much innovative as much as it is just so charismatic and fun, indie music to proudly blast in your car.
Best: “Gloria”, “Monsterman”, “Sweet Romance”
Worst: “Live Fast, Die Hard”
Neaon - A Year to Remember:
So you take Celtic Ambient, slap an 80’s drum machine, some Synthwave basses, and some of the most atmospheric vocals you will find this year. Oh yeah, and a few Post Punk melodies and blazing guitars in between for good measure. Music to vibe in an Aurora borealis to.
Best: “Escape”, “Warlike”, “Ultraviolet”, “Sea of Stars”
ACTORS - Acts of Worship:
It’s 80’s Tinged Darkwave with some occasional innovations and slick vocals, both genders for a solid dynamic. Not always the newest sound on the market, but still one of the highest quality.
Best: “Cold Eyes”, “Only Lonely”, “Like Suicide”
Worst: “Killing Time (Is Over)”
Suzi Sabotage - Nazi Goths, Fuck Off (Selfishadows Remix):
I mean, the title is right there. I do appreciate the club-friendly approach to this though, send a clear message to the core audience.
That’s all folks! Be sure to support the artists on Bandcamp and social medias.
Thanks for reading and as always, stay spooky!