Review of Art Diktator: Isola

Art Diktator is a Turkish art-disco/electronica duo that started in 1997, through which husband and wife team Hakan and Ravenna have since been an intricate part of the Turkish underground music scene. Using self-drawn graphic videos and a high-energy stage show, they have been captivating audiences of many genres under one progressive sound.

https://artdiktator.bandcamp.com/album/isola

https://www.facebook.com/artdiktatorfanpage/

Last week, we did a podcast with the amazing Elz and the Cult. One of the bands they chose to share was Art Diktator, and Collin and I fell in love. This high art / quirky electronic dance sound is brimming over with artistic intrigue and dance floor electricity. It’s a tornado of different styles swirling with dark energy to the eye of the storm where beautiful melodies meet electro-punk danger. The voices form a wonderful call-and-answer duality and match dark sensuality with angelic beauty. I don’t understand most of the lyrics, but the power of delivery leaves me captivated.

Ravenna and Hakan

I found myself wrapped in their constantly bouncing lo-fi synth sounds and driving, dark bass lines. Hakan’s voice is a deep, rich snarl from the lowest register in a sinister chant below the music, while Ravenna is a melodic, lilting gust of wind over a barren city. Strikingly effective use of transition and phasing. All the artistic integrity of Black Tape for a Blue Girl-esque darkwave plus the tearing, dance drone of Sig Sig Sputnik is a lot to pack, but somehow Art Diktator finds that place. I love how each song changes tone and emotion so much and leaves me feeling like I am watching a foreign heist film with no subtitles. In the podcast, Collin called it “Angry ABBA” and I can think of nothing more apt.

Hakan’s artwork

Favorite Tracks:

Van Gölü Canavarı – This lovely, strange synthwave line comes in lulling you with its downturned tempo. Then, bam! everything speeds up and your body starts moving to the beat. Hakan croons with his deep, gravely voice and is answered with a robotic callback. The name means Van Lake Monster, which is a Turkish myth. I just kept getting lost in the furious motion and contrasting sounds.

Don’t Dream It, Be It Did I choose this one because I could understand the lyrics? Nope, I picked it because it’s a jam. The crisp waves of slithering sound mix with the xylophone-sounding ascending keyboard banks. It’s a mantra we can all understand. Made me feel like I was part of a Turkish remake of Beverly Hills Cop and the end salvo with Ravenna’s whispering chorus were a beautiful finish.

ZONE FATAL – I believe this was an older track, in which the vocals feel reminiscent of Andrew Eldritch. The lyrics are also very dark and poetic and the music is a driving dark city soundtrack. Lots of tight corners and slithering shadows.

Overall, discovering this band and the others Elz shared with us during the podcast has really opened me up to the rich and wonderful Turkish Underground scene. I’m going to have to dig deeper into this catalog because this album is a sizzling train ride into the dark.

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Review Of La forêt by Feu Follet

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Band: Feu Follet

Label: Blackjack Illuminist Records

Members: Alban Blaising

Home Base: Nancy, France

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If you’ve been searching for the perfect 80’s action/sci-fi/horror movie feels to warm you up this winter, look no more! La forêt, the latest album by Feu Follet has everything! It’s perfectly synthwave, perfectly pop, and perfectly dark.

This album is entrancing. There are very few lyrics, but somehow from the first track through the last track, the album is hypnotized. Unexpected changes dictate the experience in the coolest way. Throughout, I got mega robot opera vibes, so I’m deeply in love with this artist now.

The twists and turns of this album are unpredictable and much appreciated. This album is ridiculously awesome. Synthwave has a way of always feeling super positive, but this album reaches depths of darkness I’ve not heard much in this genre. Some tracks will send chills down your spine as you listen.

The music is structured throughout this album in a way that tells a complete story. Like each song is a chapter or level that tells you right where you are in the story arc. It’s incredible how many times I’ve already listened to this album and feel like it tells me a different story every time.

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Some favorite tracks

Les chasseurs– Right away, this song is dark. It stays in a minor key throughout. This song is incredibly visual. It’s like you’re being chased by a robot or something and at points, you feel like you’re going to get away, but then you’re running as fast as you can and even faster at the end. Never at any point in this song do I feel anything other than pumped and creeped out.

L’enfant- This song isn’t as dark as the last, but is just as fun if not more so. This song is very danceable and has mega synthwave, 80’s movie score vibes.  I don’t know if it’s the epic guitar leads, the synths that make you feel like you’ve hacked the mainframe, or the epic Phil Collins drums in the bridge that seal the deal for me.

Le photographe- This song is just as mystical as it is epic. If you’re looking for montage music, this may be one of the greatest contenders you’ll ever hear. This song feels like it was plucked right out of The Goonies. When anything starts with a goblin synth line then drops into some gated drums, you know you’re in for a good time.

To be able to tell a story with a song is easy, but to create an entire album that makes the listener feel like they’re part of an episode of Black Mirror is a major accomplishment. This outstanding album is easily one of my new favorites.

If you’re a fan of Kraftwerk, M80, John Carpenter, anything synthwave/darkwave, or if you like to collect awesome comics with your awesome albums…. check this album out.

Review pf Glass Apple Bonzai : The All​-​Nite Starlite Electronic Café

Band: Glass Apple Bonzai

Album: The All-Nite Starlite Electronic Cafe’

Label: Artoffact Records

So my first introduction to Glass Apple Bonzai was through this collaboration and I immediately fell in love. This song is beautiful, deep, and textured in a way that pays respect to the past. Yet was fresh and original. I had to apologize to Daniel. This album came out in 2019 and somehow just slipped through my fingers. So I started listening tonight and Holy shit, this is up there with the best Synthwave albums I heard in 2019. It’s passionate, it’s powerful, it’s crafted by a master of Synthesizer architecture. The idea of Synthwave music is such a carefully formulated construction of building blocks in perfect precision that even to a rookie it is so easy to hear when something is out of place. On this record nothing is ever out of place even for a moment. Daniel is an artist who uses every sound, every effect, every word to razor wire effect.

Sometimes in 2020 it is easy to get caught up in the fact that artists are creating music on the shoulders of artists 20-30 ect years gone. That we have this pressure to re-invent the wheel and say that we are doing something fresh that isn’t effected by the things we loved in the 80’s that came before us. I think one of the most entrancing aspects of this record is the unapologetic way it embraces it’s homage to the past while finding it’s own voice. The concepts, sounds, even vocal patterns pull heavily from 80’s pop music. Yet the concepts here are fresh. The vocals and lyrics are heartfelt. The technology allows for new possibilities. It’s like Daniel traveled to the past, had modern tech not available to musicians then, then wrote about life in 2019 within that framework. It’s not easy to pull this off and Daniel is a craft person who pulled together a difficult idea.

Favorite Tracks:

Radio: Gorgeous synth magnificence straight out of a John Hughes movie. It’s expansive, it’s beautiful, and it burrows into your head with lovely pop hooks. I can’t never get enough of this track.

Stormy Weather: I love the sensitive power of this track. It has a wonderful lyrical poetry. It builds and uses harmony like a synth itself. This was 80’s Duran Duran at it’s best and yet a song I never heard and wanted to.

The Fire (Of Giant Red Stars) – I love the change up here. The beats are off kilter and the background takes a dark tone in spite of the bright music. This song has wonderful layers. Reminds me of Pet Shop Boys in the hurtful intensity of the lyrics against the bright synths and dance beat.

Overall I can’t believe I never dived into this album in 2019. It should have been on my top 2019 list but I am making up for lost time. Find this record and play it often.

Review of Kid Saint Nothing album “Above_Below”

Members: Reggi “WereWolf” Paige

Hometown: Kalamazoo (Secret goth haven of the midwest)

Label: Self Release

https://www.facebook.com/Kid-Saint-Nothing-110214880442459/

https://kidsaintnothing.bandcamp.com/releases?fbclid=IwAR13DrtvXyC2-aniMOEBJpE0rNQo3C__IwaeLKYvk2FTszYf9bOk6gqzH5A

Shameless self promotion of Reggi in an Amaranth Tshirt 😉

I really couldn’t be more excited for this release. I just don’t do enough to promote the amazing Kalamazoo Music scene and Reggi has been a mainstay of it for over a decade. With Kid Saint Nothing‘s new album Above_Below they have truly their opus with a mature beautifully crafted dark edge synth wave. It shows a maturity of sound and a tender adolescence of feeling. Capturing his pure and tortured soul with pin point melodies and nostalgic themes. I know I am having trouble hiding that feeling of proud big brother from my voice, but I am genuinely blown away by what he has created here. These songs are haunting and ran through my mind all day. The drum fills are explosive and the simple feel of the rising keys put me in mind of Mr.Kitty. A compliment i do not throw around lightly.

Reggi and Buddha

This album has such a diversity of sound but all fits together like pieces of a puzzle. They have a soulful voice and lyrics that cut a vein and spray it all over you. Something I feel like modern music could use a healthy dose of. Reggi croons and drones in equal measure with a lot of Emo sensibility measured with 60’s surf. I’ve heard them sing in a few projects but never with this control and clarity and it left me wondering why not until now. The styles are a little all over the place, but they are every place I wanted to be.

Top Tracks: Fuuuuuck how to pick, listen to it all….but

Let’s Fall In Love: This beautiful bumpy synth lets Reggi croon like 80’s solo Peter Murphy. It’s tender and heartfelt. I love the 50’s doo wop feel on the chorus. This song built a home in my head and lived there all day.

Save Myself: Yummy yummy drum beats. Call to me from beneath the sea. This dark wave builder is full of imagery as it slithers and winds. The lyrics appear as a whisper and make you lean in to hear. Reminded me a bit of my friend Vin from Ghost of Bela Lugosi. (Reggi is a fan). Even the angels can’t save you from yourself.

This Is Not Your Home: It’s like a movie I saw but can’t remember the plot of. I like his lower register build to the vocals. The tender sliding synth pads creating this solitary house. One you are looking at from outside.

Maniac On The Floor: This cover of Michael Sembello is just must hear, trust me

Look I know I got a bit gushy on this one. I am just so proud of the album a dear friend has created. I know i am pretty close to this but after hearing music all over the world for this review page. I feel pretty confident this isn’t just connection. It’s not the cleanest constructed record I have heard this year. Yet it is definitely one that made me feel as much as anything. I really can’t recommend it enough. You will be glad you gave it a try. I can’t wait to have Amaranth play with them.

Review of IRIS: Six

Band : IRIS

Album: Six

Label: Dependent records

Members: Reagan Jones / Andrew Sega

Hometown: Austin Tx

https://www.facebook.com/pg/iris.radiant/about/?ref=page_internal

https://iris-us.bandcamp.com/album/six

So IRIS is a band I was a little late to the game on. Their first album was “Awakening” back in 2004. However my dear friend Sunil Khanna at Darkest Before Dawn in Austin told me I needed to check this out, and he hasn’t been wrong yet. This album was no exception.

So what jumps out at me right away. Multiple pedal Shoegaze guitar slush…check. Beautifully produced shake your body 80’s fuzed Synthwave dance beats…check. Place in the blender at medium speed and seamlessly swirl to that place where textural beauty meets pop sensibility. This album covers a lot of ground with a lot of different sounds. Yet, when it’s at its best is when these two elements come together in glorious synthesis. Reagan Jones has this wonderful warm Curt Smith (Tears For Fears) quality to his vocals that captivate and ring with clarity but don’t steal from the sizzling back beat of the music. Maybe that is the other piece that reminds me of well done Shoegaze. Just when he has you in a lull sinking into the warm memorizing music, he cuts to the front and belts a laser beam note that reminds you of the power of his voice.

This band took a fairly long hiatus from 2014-2019 and the maturity of these songs really shows in the smooth even production. It doesn’t have a lot of edge but makes up for that with a genuine and spiritual wisdom. I feel like it can be a hard thing to find in the modern era of beep boop synth pop. It’s that refinement that made this record stand out in the landscape. It also made me really hope to see this band live because I feel like the extra ferocity of a stage performance would add another level of dynamic.

Lets talk about some stand out tracks because while the record didn’t have enormous stylistic dynamic, it definitely changed the flavor in subtle ways from song to song.

Joy Kill – A nice medium tempo Lo-Fi creeper which jumps up for the chorus with a great pop hook. Definitely one where Jones hits another gear in his range then steps back to an easy cadence that lets the swirling synth lines take center stage. Beautiful and expressive.

Pure White Snow – This song really made that synthesis of buzzing slush and clean tone dance beat come together. The imagery was great as well. “Blood Moon so soon, do you hear my cry in vain” I love the subtle computerized effect on the voice which makes it feel very modern while the music was so New Wave.

Take The Pain – They cranked up the drive for this one. Bass way to the front and let the vocals echo off the back. This song speaks to the duality of what they are achieving and sings a concept easy to relate to. It’s a song with enough bass umph to drive folk to the dance floor, but enough depth to make you listen once you get home from the club.

Overall I really enjoyed this album for the blending and the professional quality. It makes me want to dig back into their catalog. I don’t feel like this album was reinventing the wheel but not all of them need to. Sometimes it’s about taking elements you love and honing them together then adding a level of clarity which make that synthesis sound like it was always meant to be together. That’s what IRIS has done with this album and it is an effect I’m glad I gave the attention to.