NRW RADIO

EQUINOX EP

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What is your favorite track from Equinox EP?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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-NRW-





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Monday, October 20, 2014

SHARI VARI'S VOID VISION - GREAT EMERGING RETROWAVE TALENT!



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.





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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dead Astronauts - Constellations - One of the Most Original Albums This Year


Constellations by 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 consistent album.

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.  




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NRW





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Monday, October 13, 2014

Awkward Silence - The Master System EP - Debut Shows Promise



The Master System by Awkward Silence is in some sense a debut EP. This musical project by actor James Harris released a sample heavy 90’s rave inspired romp in May, but this is his first release in this genre. The 90’s sample heavy style seems to peek its way through more often than not throughout the English actor’s EP.

“Intro” (you get one guess which track number that is) is the first song of the EP to demonstrate this 90’s electronic aesthetic that peaks its head. The ominous and atmospheric pads of the track are soon accompanied by a very acidy 303 arp. This mixture of sounds is actually pretty interesting and leads to the EPs first of many audio samples.

To listeners more familiar with the meticulously programmed precision of modern electronic tracks, this EP overall may feel sloppy. This is due to the sample heavy nature of it. “Don’t Stop the Montage” is noticeably sample heavy, and it works for some parts of the songs. The sound bites included in this track show both the good and bad of The Master System. When they work, they have a campiness that succeeds in creating atmosphere. When it doesn’t work, it is invasive and really detracts from the whole.

“Citizens On Patrol” has my favorite sounds of the release. The persistent waves of bass synth carry the track. A similar arp to “Intro” joins the bass and it really makes a fresh and original moment. “Fade Into the Background” loses a little steam from being a little obtuse in terms of rhythm. That being said, the lead synth of it is pretty sounding and it has a pretty successful use of a sound clip.

The penultimate track is a strong one. The melodies are all pretty intricate but also very accessible and constantly bounce off each other and harmonize. The female vocal sampling in “Midnight Identity Crisis” is best of EP and makes me really wish this track had an actual vocal track. “The Final Escape” (again, guess the track listing) is interesting. A lot of the music we cover here is excellent as background music or for active listening. “The Final Escape” doesn’t work very well as background music. It just moves from one idea to another too quickly. It is, however, an excellent track to actively listen to and appreciate the pieces of the whole.


The biggest things holding this EP back is the over-reliance of sound bites and the uneven production quality. The tracks that work here work really well. This is mainly due to the far-reaching influences Awkward Silence pulls from. Your interest in this release will ultimately come from your own views of this musician/fan community. What is this community to you? This is a serious question, and one I hope to address in a future post. I think we all define it differently and come to new releases and new artists differently as a result. First releases in a genre are rarely great, but this scene is so DIY intensive and communally supportive. We listen. We create. We share. This EP may have rookie flaws, but it has glimmers of originality that make me interested in follow up releases.






- Joey Edsall