Tag Archives: synth

Wume – “Maintain”

…and speaking of analog synth jams, here is another one, this time from Baltimore synth and drum duo Wume. The band has a new album out entitled “Maintain” on Ehse Records, also based in their hometown.

It’s difficult for me to quite put my finger on a genre that would best describe the jams on “Maintain.” Part Stereolab kraut-rock synths, part early Philip Glass, part psychedelic trance music, part Blade Runner soundtrack; it all depends on which element you’re focusing on at the time.

The buzzing analog synth square waves laid down by Albert Schatz loop, bounce, and layer, and occasionally float or drift in sustained ambience, all combining to create melody lines that dance across the audio field. That each track is averaging around 6 minutes in duration allows plenty of time for these ideas to slowly play out. The track “Voyager” finds the time to work through a complicated accumulation of sound before completely changing gears in the middle of it to try out some other catchy melodies.

Of course, I can’t fail to mention the drums. Bringing in complex meter changes and a jazz sensibility, April Camlin’s drumming really brings the sounds to life. Her rhythm is rock-solid, moving deftly from bare metronomic clicks in the background at the end of “Two Bridges,” or the simple (although, really not that simple for long) four-on-the-floor of “Gold Leaf” to subdued blast-beats of “Voyager.” (Yes, I said ‘subdued blast-beats. Listen to it, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Camlin works the entire kit, taking great pains to switch things up, moving through more timbres than I even knew were options as a drummer.

Check out the entire album above, and the video for “Ostinaut” below. The duo is currently on tour supporting fellow Baltimorian and synth aficionado Dan Deacon. “Maintain” is currently available on CD or vinyl direct from Ehse records.

Premiere: Roladex – “We R”

Here’s another band that I’ve covered before, Roladex, coming at us once again from a label that I’ve come to know and love, Medical Records. The label is celebrating their 5th birthday with a pretty substantial double LP retrospective called “Synesthesia: The First Five Years.”

What Medical Records has put together is basically 3 sides that serve as a collection of re-issues of what they consider to be their best tracks, with a 4th side comprised of several new Medical Records artists covering some of their favorite reissue tracks. The 5 year anniversary release also happens to be the label’s 50th release in total. So to celebrate we’re premiering a track from the 4th side of the LP by Roladex with their cover of the Charisma Track “We R.”

Roladex’s sound lends itself perfectly to the track–at once picking up where Kraftwerk left off while adding elements of later proponents of the analog/new wavey synth sound The Human League. It’s that mixture of catchiness and emotion with the somewhat unaffecting, staid synth sound.

You can check out the album in its entirety below from Medical Records’ bandcamp page. You can also order the album, due out on June 11th, on limited edition gatefold 160g colored vinyl. Lots of great stuff on here so check it out below.

 

 

Stream: Espectrostatic – “Escape from Witchtropolis”

As soon as the drums come in on the song “Escape from Witchtropolis” you can tell exactly what is going to happen. It’s just got that perfect krautrock sound: the motorik beat, barely audible syncopated hi-hat and completely lacking in the drum-fill department. Some of the retro synth sounds remind of RJD2′s work to a certain extent. On top of all that I think that the track is perfectly named, with it’s winding, demented sounding lead line adding a whole new element to the mix.

There’s a lot going on across “Escape…” from the aforementioned brooding synths, to the bombastic percussion of “The Feral Kids,” which makes good use of the piano as a percussion instrument; those loud low end attacks really give you the force of the low fundamental with just a hint of the brightness from the upper partials. Colder synths prevail on “This is a War Universe,” working in all dimensions by adding a spaciousness to the recording. Though the synths are going direct, the piano has been recorded with a lot of room noise this time, opening up the recording dramatically. Still, though, “This is a War Universe” is largely a synth affair, continuing to capture the brooding atmosphere presented on previous tracks.

Espectrostatic also finds the time to play with form, shuttling from the more familiar structures of the beautifully contrapuntal, “The Obelisk” and the title track, to tracks that express an environment in their one-part form such as “Sinking into the Microverse.”

“Espectrostatic” is the solo project of Alex Cuervo of the Hex Dispensers. “Escape from Witchtropolis” is out now on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind records. You can purchase the album as a download from his bandcamp. The album is also available as a CD that comes in a gatefold miniature LP-style cardboard sleeve, or as an LP from the Trouble in Mind site.

Stream – Bam Spacey – “1998”

Released last month, Bam Spacey’s “1998” is an album of layered synths and minimal textures. One moment we’re left floating in a hazy realm emerging from warm extended tones, for example in the opening introduction. Other moments are much more clearly built around pop structures with clear harmonies sung over top of those layers of ambience. A track like “Markbildning (II)” floats lazily between these two worlds; it’s ambient and minimal, while the vocal melody holds to its own regular phrasing, tracing strophes, spaced out with ambient interludes.

Echoes of Tim Hecker, from a timbral standpoint, pop up through the texture from time to time, such as on “Markbildning (II).” That dark ambience is, however, mostly left behind on “Upplyst,” a track featuring prominent drums and a pulsation that approaches traditional electronic dance music. This is also the case with “Ropar Från En Avgrund;” it actually breaches the line straight into more dance oriented territory.

Most of the album drifts across slowly, enveloping the listener in pure sound that languishes for extensive periods nearly undisturbed. The layers of synths are ripples on the water and Bam Spacey uses a delicate hand to slowly add more to those ripples while making sure that they don’t turn into overbearing waves. The ethereal quality of the atmospherics is maintained throughout the album, forming a cohesive whole that manages to straddle the boundaries of synth-driven ambience and dance music.

“1998” is available now as a download from the Ceremony Recordings bandcamp page, and is also available as a limited vinyl release. There will only be 300 copies in the first pressing, so head over to the Ceremony Recordings website to pick up a copy.

Stream/Video: Corners – “Maxed Out on Distractions”

Los Angeles area band Corners just released “Maxed out on Distractions” at the beginning of the month; an album full of post-punk’s angular approach to rhythm and echoed guitars combined with the analog synths of chillwave, and even some honest pop hooks. The songs that make up “Maxed Out…” are all coming from the same dark world of Joy Division, but on tracks like “Buoy” they work hard to break out of those constraints, chugging along with a more aggressive guitar riff that sounds closer to The Blind Shake than it does Ian Curtis and co.

With every song it becomes clear that this is what we all keep hoping Interpol will bring us, yet they disappoint us time and time again. Corners are coming in to fill the void, picking up where “Turn on the Bright Lights” left off. Corners, instead of trying to fill every possible second with complex and cerebral contrapuntal constructions, are happy to let the silences and ambiance speak. For example, the extended outro of “Against It” makes a point of capturing and even highlighting the environment in which it was recorded, creating and solidifying the overall aura of the album.

“Love Letters” centers a bit more around the bass and synth than some of the songs on the first half of the album, but I think that the guitar is actually the most important part of the song here. It’s used so sparingly that when those few notes come ringing in over top of the synth you realize that it’s what had been missing all along, or maybe not missing, but it becomes what you as a listener want to come back. The guitar, second only to the voice, is maybe the most affecting part of the song, it’s the hook.

Each track finds Corners taking a slightly different approach. Title track “Maxed Out on Distraction” is at first driven completely by bass and drums, while “On the Run” is clearly a guitar-centric instrumental that borders on surf-rock at some points, and “Love Letters” brings the focus to the vocals.

You can listen to the album in its entirety above from the band’s bandcamp page and check out the video for “Love Letters” above as well. The album is out now on Lollipop and Burger records as a CD, LP or Cassette. You can, of course, also purchase it digitally from the bandcamp page (but why would you do that? That’s boring. Buy a physical copy). You can also find their West Coast tour dates below. If you’re in Washington, Oregon or California, definitely go check them out.

 

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“MAXED OUT” WEST COAST TOUR
10/25 Observatory, Costa Mesa, CA (Beach Goth Party)
10/26 Continental Room, Fullerton, CA*
10/27 Milk Bar, San Francisco, CA*
10/28 Chillanova, Davis, CA*
10/30 Doug Fir, Portland, OR*
10/31 The Cannery, Everett, WA*
11/1 TBA, Seattle, WA*
11/2 Sam Bonds Garage, Eugene, OR*
11/3 Duffy’s Tavern, Chico, CA*
11/4 Townhouse, Venice, CA*
11/5 Federal Bar, Long Beach, CA
11/8 Regent Theatre, Los Angeles, CA (w/ Connan Mockasin)

  • w/ Drinking Flowers

Stream: Seatraffic – “Man on the Coast”

There’s something about a really thick square-wave synth tone that hooks me in. Seatraffic had me with “Man on the Coast” straight out of the gate based on timbre alone. The more I listened to the track the deeper my connection with the track.

To me the sound created on this track is evocative of traveling, landscape unfolding outside a train window taking you to some new place where there’s a whole new and exciting set of expectations. Something new seems to be on the horizon, and sure all of these feelings that have nothing to do with the music but everything to do with the sound are what hooked me in, but there are lot of more universally understood machinations at work.

Music bloggers, present company included I’m sure, use words like “expansive” a great deal without ever nailing down exactly what it means. Well, specific to this track at least, the manner in which the track opens with the lowest point and gradually elevates the tessitura with the addition of a synth chorus (maybe mixed with some synth strings?) and follows that with the vocals and another bit of staccato synth sounding a bit like a palm-muted guitar that bounces from channel to channel.

One can also consider the rhythmic layers that are at work as well. The slow buzzing square wave that opens the track with the soaring legato vocal, with an underpinning of the staccato synth sounds to me like two different time streams simultaneously. It’s as if the piece is partly moving in slow motion. It’s that tension, and the timbres within this track that really pull me in.

Seatraffic’s forthcoming album “Beauty in the Night” is set for a September 9th release. You can pre-order the album on white vinyl from Seatraffic’s Bandcamp page, and check out another album track, “Precious Stones.” You can also find a lot of information regarding upcoming shows (none as of right now, but I’m sure there will be some coming as the release date approaches) and other merch on Seatraffic’s webiste.

Stream tracks from new Le Rug compilation “Press Start: The Collection”

Le Rug has got pretty good timing, coming at us with a track like “Jailbait,” just in time for the Summer. This track is sure to end up on more than a few playlists designed to accompany roadtrips down a sunny highway to nowhere in particular in the coming months. It’s just one of those carefree and energetic rockers that’s catchy as hell from start to finish.

Of course, being that it is only one track from a 32 track compilation that spans several years, it is by no means representative. “Harold Camping” is a bit more varied in its approach, with the same wild vocal but a guitar sound that is more restrained. Each song throughout the compilation sounds new and familiar at the same time, and though I usually prohibit myself from saying such meaningless-sounding wordfiller type things, it’s really true. Though “Godstar” reminds me of maybe The Burdocks, in the sound of the vocals, and some of the melodies. The rhythms here are less angular, that is for sure, but the melodic sensibility is pretty similar.

Other tracks, like “Get it Over With” and “Dead in a Hole” explore a synthier side that isn’t necessarily any colder timbrally than the other guitar driven tracks, but certainly explore a whole other sound in general. The guitar is ever present, at varying levels of grit. The songs always have the ability to soar and find a way to pull the listener in.

The good news is that there is a whole lot more where this came from. These songs are coming off a 32 track compilation that is set for release June 17th, and can be pre-ordered right now on cassette (recommended) or as a download from Austin’s Fleeting Youth records. According to the press release:
Press Start: The Collection features 5 magnetic and pulsing post-punk releases from Brooklyn’s Le Rug (32 tracks overall)– 3 albums from when Le Rug was more active years ago and 2 new recent EPs released earlier this year.
For now though you can download the tracks above for free. Take some time to ruminate with them. No doubt you will find yourself wanting to listen more and more.

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