Void Vision, I will admit, is somewhat of an enigma. I have
been able to find out very little about the project, except that it is one girl
and some synths. Apparently a few singles have been released, and this effort,
“Sub Rosa,” is the girl’s debut solo album. Floating gently down to us out of
relative quiet and obscurity, the album is not easily classified, but
definitely fits into the broad spectrum of retrowave music.
Void Vision appears to be the solo project of one Shari
Vari, native of Philadelphia. I made efforts to contact her, but Shari has
remained silent. Four years ago, she released a 7” I have been unable to track
down, and a version of “Sour” (on this album) was released as a single last
year on Mannequin Records. According to scattered reports, Vari has been
performing live in the northeastern USA, predominantly in the Big Apple. Based
on this showing, we can only hope to hear more from her in the future.
The sound itself is vaporous, even spectral at times, but
never seems to lack substance throughout. Ghostly, choral tones hold up the low
and mid ranges, while low-bitrate synths tumble forth melody lines rife with
arpeggio and scalar play. Human vocals are prevalent, a female voice, darkly
haunting but still oddly soothing in their softness. Percussion varies from
high, tight electro drums to deeper, throbbing drums on tracks like “Sour.”
Much of the substance is undeniably 80s-inspired, with a gentle twist of
modernity to it. A dark tone, hopeful in some places, solemn in others, sets
the norm for these tracks. The music is faintly romantic, good for brooding,
and could even take its place on a dance floor. Though it lacks the bursting
energy of much of the genre’s albums, the beats are dynamic and full-bodied.
I have held back on detailing individual tracks, as they
tend to flow almost seamlessly together; the album stands firmly as one
continuous work, without seeming tedious or boring.
Using our new grading system, I would grant this album 8 out
of 10 stars solid. It is a refreshing exploration of the mellow side of
darkness, a lovely contrast to the horror-film-inspired synth music with which
I am normally smitten in this genre. Lying somewhere between chill and gloomy,
it is excellent kick-back or afterparty listening material.
Dead Astronauts is a cool album. I wish that didn’t sound so clichéd. The
release just exudes such a unique vibe and creates such dense atmosphere with
what feels like little effort. It manages to skirt retro/synthwave clichés
throughout, but subverts them in subtle ways to make this a very original and
It is usually very obvious which 80’s artists a
retro-inspired musician goes to for reference. The amount of retro songs
inspired by “Beat It” is pretty substantial, and there’s nothing wrong with
that. I love “Beat It” and I love some of the excellent songs that I believe it
inspired. Dead Astronauts recall the sounds of more eccentric artists. Little
moments of music and elements of vocal delivery recall Echo & the Bunnymen,
Bauhaus, and Joy Division. These are three of my favorite bands and this album
captures so much of what made those bands so great while recontextualizing it
in modern synths and production.
The back and forth between the Jared Kyle’s and Hayley
Stewart’s vocals is the ace up Dead Astronauts’ sleeve.Individually they are both unique voices
(literally) in the genre. Kyle recalls 80’s post punk and gothic rock while
Stewart croons soulfully with a tasteful atmospheric reverb used sparingly.
Stewart’s also deserves special mention. I love when music is able to give me
newer experiences and newer appreciations with each listen. The album works so
well when you just listen to the surface. The vocals help that out. But if you
look under the hood you hear a lot of neat stuff happening and some synth
sounds that are interesting.
The entire album presents clichés of the genres reimagined
in an original light. They are reclaimed and are no longer a negative. The
pulsating bass synths hit you in a different way than you would expect. Some
moments have synths that sound almost chiptune-inspired, though not to a level
of campiness or novelty. The tracks absolutely work with them. “Parallel
Universes” and “Unhappy Women” get downright glitchy with the production on the
vocals.The artwork and general aesthetic
occupy a mystical juxtaposition between fantasy and science fiction, as
embodied by their mascot Persephone.
I really love so much about this release. It is easily in my
top five albums of the year regardless of genre. I wish this album were
available on vinyl. Fans of NRW will absolutely eat this album up. Constellations will get the band fans
from outside of the community and they absolutely deserve it.