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Friday, December 19, 2014

The Top 10 Best Retrowave Album Covers of 2014

The Top 10 Album Artwork Covers of 2014

By Rhys Pearce



10. Le Cassette - Left to our own devices / Released on 10th July 2014
Artwork by Crystal Labs


'A real basic design here, but really effective. This kind of art was super popular during the 1980's and I like to imagine that Prince has wallpaper like this throughout his house'.

9. Timecop1983 - Journeys / Released on 10th June 2014
Artwork by Timecop1983

'Another simplistic design that goes to show that album art doesn't always have to be complicated and complex to be visually appealing. This cover has a super classic retro vibe and always leaves me wanting to play Out Run'.

8. Void Vision - Sub Rosa / Released on 11th November 2014



'Definitely one of my favourite records released in 2014. This grey scale cover spoke to me before I'd even heard a note of the music and I felt it captured the essence of Void Vision's sound in a single photo'.

7. Dead Astronauts - Constellations / Released on 16th October 2014
Artwork by J3 Concepts

'Lets be honest, if you bumped into this creature on the street, you could pretty much guarantee that you'd shit your pants. But, no need to worry guys as its just just the product of someone's imagination....at least I hope so".

6. Mild Peril - Matter / Released on 3rd July 2014




'First time I saw this cover, I was expecting to listen to some old British Metal band from the late 70's. Turns out that 'Matter' is an awesome Medieval inspired Synth album Programmed & Performed by the talented C Gilbert'.

5. Muscle - The Pump / Released on 17th March 2014
Artwork by Youp Wehnes

'The ultimate soundtrack to get your pump onto, 'The Pump' features an oiled up honey flexing her guns, what's not to like about this cover?'

4. Perturbator - Dangerous days / Released on 17th June 2014
Artwork by Ariel B Zucker

'This beautiful post apocalyptic image from Perturbator is totally bad ass and I'm convinced is something that even SLAYER would be proud of'.

3. Monomer - Labyrinth / Released on 6th November 2014

'The artwork on this cover was designed by, Rufus Blacklock, of whom I'm a big fan. This incredible design was clearly born in the mind of someone with incredible skill and vision'.

2. Ron Cannon - Blue light murder / Released on 13th June 2014

'This could have easily been the front cover of a Slasher Film in the 80's and is without a shadow of a doubt something I would have rented. 'Blue Light Murder' is my unsung hero of 2014'.


1. Starcadia - Saturdaze / Released on 26th September 2014
Artwork by Starcadian & Iknonoklasm

'This beautiful design fills me with nostalgia and takes me back to those feelings of being a kid back in the day. On this album, 'Starcadia' take classic themes from 80's shows such as 'Dance Or Die', 'Cody Laser', 'Lethal Response' and spit out amazing remixes. I listened to this one constantly for over a week'.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THIS WEEKS MUST LISTEN TO ALBUM IS.....



NONE OTHER THAN


DANCE WITH THE DEAD

WITH

SEND THE SIGNAL



THIS EP IS EVERYTHING!!


NRW

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Interview: STREET CLEANER

I recently had a chance to ask a few questions of Jesse Bishop, aka "Street Cleaner." The synthwave vigilante had some definitive, interesting answers for me.




Q:Tell me about your style in your own words, and about what music influences you as an artist.


-I've always been into music, Electronic music. In the late 90's I cut my teeth in the Impulse tracker / Fast tracker Gabber scene. Then moved into chiptunes. I found that the music I appreciated and remembered most was from Video Games and 80's movies. I worked on video game arrangements for a while then finally got a chance to score a ream video game, Aeternum on Xbox and PC. After that project I felt I owed it to myself to also write the soundtrack to an 80's movie (My other passion in life) and wrote the soundtrack to an action/noir vigilante film "Street Cleaner" about a law abiding detective by day, and masked baseball bat wielding vigilante by night. I drew a lot of influences from, well, movies. My Ipod is FULL of 80's movies soundtracks. It's practically all I listen to.



Q:What equipment and/or software do you use? also, what is the creative process like for you when you sit down to work on music?


-I parted with a pretty decent collection of hardware about 5 years ago. I kept my Korg MS2000 and my guitars (Namely, Ibanez HRG1), but found that I can be a much more productive artist with VSTs and other plugins. I'm embarrassed to say, but I still use an old version of FL studio 8. But you know, I've spent to much time with it, I'm afraid to leave it. I know it inside and out. 


Outside of strictly music, what aspects of 80s retro culture influence you or stick out in your mind? 


-The true artistic nature of the 80's. People weren't afraid to take risks. If you look at movies like Manhunter and Blade Runner, They are both standout artistic perfection that in no way had a predecessor. Terminator, The Keep, Akira, Lost Boys, Gremlins, Beetlejuice, American Werewolf, THE LIST GOES ON! All great artistic endeavors that took risks.. Not like the 'Play it safe' bullshit of recent history. Studios would rather give Adam Sandler another 50 million then take a 20 million risk on a potential visionary.



Q: Outside of synthwave/retrowave music, what kinds of music do you enjoy? What other genres?


-Video game music. I listen to game music about as much as anything else. Knowing the sound chip limitation of some of the older game consoles and hearing what these guys were able to make them do just makes my jaw drop. Street of Rage 2 and Gunstar Heroes are prime examples. It's almost as if the physical limitations unlocked limitless potential. 



Q: Just recently, you released "Payback," which was a superb album. What's in the works now? What does the future hold for Street Cleaner?

-I've got a few Irons in the fire right now. The most important of which is a new video game soundtrack. I've already started work on a game that is being developed for PS4 and Steam. It's a much more energetic outrun style game that will be done under the Street Cleaner moniker. I look forward to bridging the gap between Synthwave/Outrun and Game Music. 

---

Tune in next time, true believers!!!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Interview - Dead Astronauts



Hello! First I wanted to thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions. The NRW community loved your album and would love to learn more about you. 

 Hayley: The pleasure is ours! We're thrilled to be here.

 Jared: Likewise, we are both followers of NRW, so honored to be a part.

 Let’s start basic: Who are the members of Dead Astronauts and how did you form?
H: Dead Astronauts is made up of Jared and I. He approached me a few years ago through Soundcloud to do some vocals on DA's very first single, Favorite Lover, and immediately after asked if I wanted to be a permanent member of the band. We were still experimenting with different roles and debating if we needed another person on board, but we ended up sticking to just the two of us since we seemed to work so well together. Soon after, my role as vocalist turned into vocalist and producer, and it hasn't changed since.

J: Yeah we had struggled for a bit with another producer early on, but it didn't seem to be the right fit. Hayley took a stab at producing "In Disguise" and it worked out nicely. Although I do a bit of the production, I just normally serve to help direct some of it, Hayley has all the technical aspects of it nailed down.

How would you describe your music? What genre or genres would you classify yourselves as?
H: Hmm, that's a tough one. We're definitely 80s inspired, but it shines through in some songs more than others. I think it's somewhere between neo-80s synth pop and coldwave. But then there's songs like our remix of Unhappy Woman that totally goes against that, ha ha. Our sound definitely shifts shape a little bit each time we work on a new track. Our music is usually dark, vocal, and fairly danceable.

J: I use to want to fit us into a specific genre, but I like how we've been able to sort of mutate these different sounds to become a mash-up of a few genres. I like the diversity in that because we can explore the darker side of things on one song, and then the next get into this synth-pop sort of vibe.

Who would you say are your biggest influences musically?
H: I think that some elements of Joy Division, New Order and Depeche Mode have definitely influenced our sound. Junior Boys, too. Both Jared and I have similar taste so it's bound to come through at some points, although it definitely changes here and there. 

J: Hayley said it.

What is your recording set-up?
H: Jared and I both record everything in our respective "home studios" (I use quotations because mine is literally a Blue Mic in front of my computer). I work on the production in Logic, usually while chatting with Jared in Skype and broadcasting the audio for what I'm working on. When he needs to record, I upload a little bounced instrumental file to our Dropbox, he records, sends me his files, and we continue on like this. It sounds like a lot of steps, but it all happens pretty simultaneously. Sometimes he'll have vocal ideas along with a basic skeleton of a track, and I will rework the track around his vocals.

J: Computer, Blue mic, Sennheisser HD 380 Pros, M-Audio speakers, Ableton, and FL Studio. I'm far from pro at this music thing, but man I do enjoy it. 

What is your songwriting process?
H: Jared is pretty much the go-to guy for that. He usually has lyrics ready that he wants to use, so I build a track around it - although the opposite happens quite often too. Every now and then I will come up with a few lines to add to the tracks, but for the most part they are based around Jared's writing. The man has a stockpile, I tell you!

J: Like Hayley said we normally toss ideas back and forth a few times. They are either built off an instrumental idea that Hayley had, or a vocal idea that I had, but again, at times it works differently. I remember for "In Disguise" I had a beat, bassline, and this eerie bell sound laid out with some vocals, sent them to Hayley, and what I got back was this georgeous, polished song. If it could work that seamless every time... we'd have 4 albums by now.

What is the origin of the band mascot, Persephone?
H: Persephone was a brainchild of Jared and Glenn Arthur. Maybe I'll let him answer this one. 

J: I had used the Persephone character in a number of personal (illustration) pieces years back, so the character just stuck with me. I'd approached Glenn Arthur about re-envisioning her, and he came up with this darker side of her I hadn't seen yet. The crystal antlers, partial skull mask etc. were all these additions unique to the Dead Astronauts version of Persephone. We fell in love with her, and I'm hoping she'll stick with us through the years as DA.

The way your band embraces art and animation makes it seem as much a media project as a musical project. Was this an intentional direction that you have taken?
H: Definitely! Both Jared and I work in visual fields (Jared with Illustration, myself with photography) so it's always on our mind when thinking about what we can do with our band. Since we're so far away from one another geographically, it's a little tricky to do live shows - so we have to add a little something extra. It's been great to collaborate with artists who are so talented, even when we were just starting out and no one really knew who we were, ha ha.

J:Yeah we really wanted to make listening to our music an overall "experience". Naturally that would be achieved through a live show or music video, but since we are fairly new to this, we had to start out a bit more simple. We were both surprised when so many artists agreed to take part in the project, I think there are over 30 now. We owe them a lot.

In less than a month the physical copies of your Constellations have sold out. I still stand by it as one of my favorite releases of the year regardless of genre. Did you anticipate Constellations to be as well received as it has been?
H: Aw, thank you so much! I was definitely pleasantly surprised - I honestly didn't know what to expect. Most of our fans knew us from collaborations with artists like Perturbator and DJ Ten, who are so unbelievably talented and ooze the 80s, so it was intimidating since the album is pretty different from some of those sounds. It felt like this secret project Jared and I had been working on for years without very much insight into how people might receive it. I am so thrilled that people seem to like it though, especially since looking back there's always things you want to change, ha ha. I think we're excited to move forward and see where our next projects take us.

J: "Not knowing what to expect" was a big thing for us. Being artists, you always have that nagging feeling in the back of your head that what you are doing isn't good enough. I think it hit us half way through the album, maybe even sooner, that we wanted to make music we were proud of, music we would listen to, something that was unique, no matter the public's reaction. I think we achieved that. Both Hayley and I are proud of the album. Like anything, looking back there are things we'd do differently, but overall we are very happy with both the response we've received from the public and of course the overwhelming support for the album. Also, it was a big surprise to see you enjoyed the album so much. I stumbled across the review one day and remembered reading it twice over with a smile on my face.

What are your favorite non-musical things to do?
H:  An obvious one for me is photography - I haven't been updating my site very much, but I've been doing a lot of work recently that looks at identity and different subcultures. On a less pretentious note, I have rekindled my love of sewing, ha ha. Recently that's translated into working on cosplays. If we're getting real casual, an ideal night for me involves some friends, a cat, some gin, Super Smash Bros, Settlers of Catan and really stupid videos on the internet.

J: Besides time spent with my wife and 2 dogs (Apollonia and Persephone), I'm a Footwear Designer and Graphic Illustrator/Designer by day, freelancer illustrator by night, and "musician" anywhere in between. Besides those though, I'm an avid video gamer, Lego builder, classic anime robot collector, and all round space travelling mega playboy... yeah that last one is a lie, I'm more like an intergalactic lumberjack.

What’s your favorite Dead Astronauts song?

H: Probably Parallel Universes. My favorite track right now is actually one we're working on that we haven't finished yet. ;)

J: Honestly, I love the simplicity of "The Ocean Owns Your Body", but that's kind of cheating because it's a bonus track, so official album, I'd have to say either "Parallel Universes" or "Taking Control". Taking Control mainly because it holds a special place in my heart as I wrote it for my brother.

Check Dead Astronauts out on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.

- Joey Edsall


Thursday, December 11, 2014

NRW Gets to Know Futurecop! in an Exclusive Interview!





Manzur Iqbal of Futurecop! talks 'Fairy Tales' and his new Burger Joint venture with NRW 

by Rhys Pearce: 


RP -  Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, I understand things must be pretty hectic for you at the moment. How are you guys and what you been up to?

MI - We are good, it’s been a great experience making the music of this album, think it took about 2 years to do it, but it’s probably the most eclectic and deep thinking record we have made, so far. We have also been busy opening our first Burger joint, Cafe & Cake room in English town called Alderley Edge in Cheshire, UK called Tomfoolery at 34.

RP - How has the reception been for the new record, 'Fairy Tales' so far?

MI - Good I think, we have had great comments from fans, which is heart-warming. Also its good to see we have gained other fans who are new to synth-esque type music.

RP - You collaborated with alot of cool people on the new album, can you tell us a little about 'Futurecop!'s' recording process and how you choose who you would like to work with?

MI - Yeah sure, well we make all the instrumental before hand. Think we made around 35 songs and then chose the tracks that best fit the concepts and ideas we want to portrait. From then it’s a search for the right singers, usually we start with the people we know, then move to searching via Bandcamp. For the album and each song we have a very in-depth story and ideas written up for it, which we pass over to the singer, who we give the freedom to come up with the lyrics. It’s funny because its quite deep yet at the end we tell all singers to be very vague, so people can relate it to their own life or environment. I think it’s important to get people working on the project to really get their heads around the the ideas, which can be hard as the ideas are something you either love or hate plus we had more time to think deeply about it, unlike a singer just coming on board.

RP -  Together with Luke Thompson of Canopy Films you've released a batch of videos to accompany some of the songs featured on the new record, can you expand on how this idea came about and what your inspiration was behind the videos? 

MI - What we liked about Luke’s work was that it was more cinematic and he really got the whole 'lost summer' atmosphere and his shots would film symbols as well as a story, which viewers could see and hopefully relate too. One of the ideas behind the album was the idea of human equality, how we are all the same when we are born and to really understand people and the things they have gone through socially, before judging them. So we wanted to capture feelings through symbols that everyone has felt as children. I think it was more to do with that than the actual story. The story was by myself, and follows kids from the 60s and 90s and again displays equality for kids in all time periods. The ending has a nice twist, that really shows how life can move in mysterious and beautiful ways and how adults can really learn from their youth, to be better people. Anyway you will understand once all the videos are released. There are 6 in total and the 4th one (Mermaids) will be released this Friday.


RP - You've played shows in the US as well as in the UK, do you feel the current retro synth scene differs greatly in these countries?

MI - I am not really sure, it’s quite diverse, so it’s hard to know what to call it or more importantly what they call it. I think the scene is very creative and so everyone is always trying to look different to the current brand. I personally think of us as electronic artists, yes we have our core influences from 80s, 90s, dreams, nostalgia etc but we are open to making any type of music, we want this freedom, it allows no barriers to our thoughts, plus Futurecop! is a personal project, therefore as a growing band we are always changing in our ideas and enhancing our original core ideas. Currently we are interested in spirituality and religious history. So you never know what will the next record will be like.

RP - The whole retro synth movement has really blown up over the last couple of years and many new artists have emerged, do you have any advice to any kids out there just starting out in the scene?

MI - Sounds cheesy but stay true to yourself, don’t listen to anyone who tells you about changing or doing something that will get you fans, money, views or massive tours. MUSIC IS NOT ABOUT VIEWS, it’s touching people’s hearts. Be yourself and you’ll get true fans. Age old saying; quality not quantity.

RP - What's currently in your Walkman? Any recommendations for the NRW readers?

MI - This is a funny one, I'm actually a fan of discovering old music that is new to me. Or anything that touches the heart I guess. So lately I'm into Goo Goo Doll’s old stuff, Lisa Gerrard, Danny Elfman’s Edward Scissorhands soundtrack, Queen, Rusted Root, Enigma, REM, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Pavement, Heart, Lemonheads, Joan Osborne, Funeral for a Friend, Deftones, Jean-Jaques Goldman. A lot of love ballads too. New bands I'm into are Rise Against and Angels & Airwaves

You can also check out our label 'We are the future Records' for some great music from the likes of New shack, Hats, New Arcades, Timecop1983 and Exiles.


RP - What's the plan for Futurecop! in 2015?

MI - Besides opening the new burger joint, we want to get into making movie scores plus singles, remixes and new videos from the album. Stay updated on our social media to hear more.

RP - I understand you're a big fan of the late great filmmaker, John Hughes? - Of which character from any of his films are you most like and why?

MI - Oh it changes all the time, I feel like I'm like 10 different people in one body sometimes. However deep inside I'm the male version of Allison Reynolds, the basket case. 

RP -  Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today and I hope you have a great Christmas and New Year!

MI - Thanks and we wish you a great Christmas too and a Happy New Year. Thank you for supporting us and especially the upcoming and new artists. 

'Fairy Tales' by Futurecop! is out now.