Wednesday 12 May 2021

Retro Active

I have climbed out of the ambient / field recording hole for the time being - I could write about some of it in future but it's one of those things that it's a bit tricky to get streams of legit (especially for Wendy Carlos' work for some reason.) But we're back in electronic territory for the time being. And in another return to form I've picked out some tunes that were served up back to back courtesy of the chaos theory of the shuffle algorithm that are nicely sonically linked.

Jeffery Smart - Study for Bondi Penthouse (2002)

The order of the day is a slight retro vibe, some stronger than others. Another cut from DMX Krew's Nu Romantix leads this time - those who've seen me post about DMX before might have an idea of what to expect going in: deliberately emulating the aesthetics of the 80s for better or worse. This usually manifests in some dangerously cheesy lyrics and some delicious synth backing with a bit of vintage breakin' influence (especially on his early work), Nu Romantix has it's fair share of that too, but there's more variety on there than just that generalisation. Take the final track, a remix of I'm All Alone by Cylob, label mate on Rephlex at the time - you'd maybe expect it to be a little more IDM in style given Cylob's other works but here it's kept in line with the overall feel of the rest of the album. It wastes no time on things like intros and gets straight down to business, there's some absolutely gorgeous melodic synth work on show throughout, culminating in an incredible duet in the latter half.

Returning to the VA-11 HALL-A soundtrack once again now, most times I talk about the OST albums for it I mainly focus on the more atmospheric tracks. There's no shortage of them across the two main OST albums and I do love them a whole lot: I say it every time it comes up but they are pretty much aesthetic perfection when it comes to twinning with the art direction of VA-11 HALL-A, they're not quite full on synthwave but certainly carry that sensibility with them.

This time we're not talking about the chill vibes to make cocktails to that have made up the previous posts, tucked away on the Second Round album among other little nuggets of gold like the fictional OS startup sounds is All Systems, Go!. Much like Simon Viklund's Hot Pursuit from a little while ago, it's a little slice of high energy retro goodness - sounding like it was ripped straight out of a promo video for a then top of the line personal computer, especially with that MIDI as hell brass at the beginning. It's not all novelty though, see it through to about 50 seconds in and after a mighty flourish it gets a little more fleshed out, full of lovely touches like those slow arpeggios that really come into their own on headphones.

Another soundtrack name to round out, this time on a solo record though. You might have seen me bring up Jasper Byrne a few times in the past, his appearances on the Hotline Miami soundtracks are what pointed me in his direction. Those soundtracks have a reputation for being equal parts face melting electronic and hazy psychedelic, Byrne's work leans more toward the latter than the former, but still has that neon soaked feel that bridges the gap between the two - a more sedate style compare the squealing synth chords of some other synthwave acts.

I first heard Night on the Adult Swim synthwave-style compilation called Fever Dreams and had assumed that like a few of the tracks on there that it was an exclusive. A trip to discogs though soon pointed me towards his solo work and the album of the same name. If you're at all a fan of the kind of stuff he made for the Hotline Miami games you will find a lot to like here, Night isn't my top favourite of this album (that would be Bliss that I've posted before), but it's a great intro to the album and the overall aesthetic Jasper plays with on it: It follows the same formula of the more downtempo electronic pieces he makes but with the addition of these hazy chillwave style vocals. From what I remember I don't think they suited all the tracks but they fit really nicely on Night and Bliss.

And that'll do it for this time. Things have been much quieter so I should be able to keep to schedule a little better. I have fallen behind on the republishing front though so it may be time for an old post to make an appearance again but I'll try and balance it with something new, or add to it like I did with that OPN post from December. Either way, stay tuned for more and as always: stay safe and enjoy the music.


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