“captivity” by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based artist Soda sounds like something out of a soundtrack to a frenetic side scroller video game, the kind where you are constantly have to leap over or otherwise dodge or avoid obstacles coming toward you. Its minimal beat with syncopated change-ups and shifts in texture pushed along by an urgent, distorted synth line is like a minimalist breakbeat song informed by lo-fi home taping aesthetics. Emotionally the song evokes a sense of pent up energy ready to break free but forced to cycle to higher states of internalized activity causing the aforementioned distortion. It represents an evolution in songwriter Elijah Jarocki’s experiments in electronic music from more beat driven art noise pieces into something with a cinematic quality even given its brevity. Listen to “captivity” on Bandcamp where you can explore further into Soda’s recorded output.
CGI Dog puts us in a reflective state of mind from the beginning of his single “Livin’ in Delay.” The distorted synth progression and the syncopated percussion with shimmery cymbal fills give a hazy yet present framing to a song contemplating the world immediately around you. One imagines CGI Dog napping during a hot day while staying home during the 2020 pandemic and waking to his neighbor hammering three houses away. Who hasn’t found oneself being acutely aware of distant sounds in what might otherwise be a quiet neighborhood or apartment complex and those sounds triggering contemplation of life after too long inside your own head. Later in the song CGI Dog sings about the neighbor coughing and hoping he’s okay. It pulls him out of the prolonged doldrums many of us have experienced during quarantine. The title of the song is the perfect image for how life has been, living in delay and feeling suspended like everything is on hold yet there is a sustained stasis to it that can bring on feelings of melancholy which the melody of the song carried by CGI Dog’s vocals conveys perfectly. Listen to “Livin’ in Delay” on Spotify and connect with CGI Dog at the links below.
Drones Que Caens employs an impressionistic set of synthesizer arpeggios and meditative percussion to set the mood for “No Faltes.” But when the vocals come in with electronic flutes the dynamic of the song changes and opens up into contemplative emotional spaces. The song is in Spanish and the poetry of it is perhaps most fully appreciated with a knowledge of the language. However, even lacking that, knowing that the song is a portrait of a homeless person in Argentina, as a symbol for homeless people around the world, the emotional content of the song is the same and evocatively conveyed. It has a tragic, mournful quality that conveys a deep compassion for the situation and what makes it possible and the inherent human dignity of the subject of the song. Fans of Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s soundtrack work will appreciate the sound design component of the arrangements and production of “No Faltes” with its attention to texture, rhythm and the accents of tone. The song has a downtempo quality but one that moves you to a different state and a consciousness of the plight of others rather than comforting and soothing your conscience and that’s partly what makes it a remarkable piece of work. Listen to “No Faltes” on Soundcloud and connect with Drones Que Caen at the links provided.
Sasha Daniel uses an enigmatic, warbling drone and a minor progression on acoustic guitar to accompany her intimate vocals on “Hold.” It’s a song celebrating the love you have before heartbreaks happen and the romance experiences any major tests. Or maybe it simply expresses the durability of a bond that has deepened after some challenges. Whatever place in the romance from which the song was written its tender feelings shine through in a song that sounds melancholic and reflective. Daniel sounds assured yet tentatively hopeful with the knowledge of the way romantic bonds can be fragile and evolve in unpredictable ways as the people involved grow and change. Daniel holds on to the feelings and the memories of what made the emotional connection strong enough to be more than merely liking someone so that it can be an anchor for when times seem tougher, those times when many people can forget even for a moment what brought them together. Listen to “Hold” on Spotify and connect with Sasha Daniel at the links below.
From the beginning of Elliot James Mulhern’s “Again” it sounds like we’ve been invited into a retrofuturist re-imagining of some kind of spacious ballroom from the 1940s. Or like a chillout room adjacent to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe from the Douglas Adams novel of the same name where there exists a time bubble that seemingly allows access to a broad spectrum of possibilities. The bursting swells of tone, the bright synth tones, Mulhern’s echoing, haunted vocals make for a lo-fi dream pop song that sounds like something that might have been featured in a never before made Hitchcock film or an Orson Welles science fiction vehicle in collaboration with Baz Luhrmann with lush, scintillating sonic dynamics and a sense of hidden personal darkness and romance. Listen to “Again” on Spotify, connect with Mulhern at the links below and look out for the new EP FREE THOUGHTS which released June 5, 2020 and graced with with artwork by George Mager.
MOLTENO expertly uses electronic finger snaps, echoing percussion and swell of synth alongside her contemplative vocals to manifest the image of cycles on her single “Waves.” She sings of dropping a tone into the water and observing the inevitable waves that ripple as a result as a metaphor for the way our actions in life have inevitable and predictable consequences though we can’t always clearly see what those might be and sometimes we have to wait patiently to see how things ultimately pan out. The song captures this endless cycle of cause and effect and how it can be hypnotic and seductive to think by observing consequences that we can somehow predict the future and alter its course. Except in the luminous yet resigned tones of the song one detects an acceptance of the fact that even knowing the likely outcomes of actions conveys the illusion of control because as a mortal being you can only be aware of so much. Listen to “Waves” on Soundcloud and connect with MOLTENO at the links below.
“Digiteach” by Deoraí is what might be called a science fiction song sung in Irish Gaelic. The Kenneth Okiria video treatment brings to even more vibrant life a song that sounds like it came from the same otherworldly futuristic disco universe as Air with the beautifully hazy tones and playful synth arpeggios. Tonally it suggests soft lighting and bright colors that draw you in and transport you into its story about a woman meeting a man from 50 to 100 years in the future and trying to convince her and current humanity to hold on to what it is that makes us uniquely human as possible before we get transitioned into a digital existence. With so many of our creative products and ways of expressing ourselves are being channeled onto platforms wholly owned by private corporations really answerable to no one but a user agreement that can change whenever the corporation sees fit to do so this dire warning seems, as with almost all science fiction, a poignant commentary on the present. Will we in some way be shuffled off to some subscription service ourselves and then discontinued if the logical conclusion of this trend continues? Who can say but the images of numbers, pixels and scenes from a fully, digitally integrated future that are the main part of the video are both seductive and horrifying as embodied in the facial expressions of the main characters. Surreal and scary with a chill soundtrack is a nice contrast and science fiction author Robert Sheckley, author of Immortality, Inc., would be proud. Watch the video for “Digiteach” on YouTube and connect with Deoraí at the links below.
The earnest love song is a hackneyed premise at this point but Mashmellow’s “Heaven is You” bypasses jaded filters with its freshness of spirit and complete lack of irony. Its melodic bass line paired perfectly with jangle-y guitars is reminiscent of something you might have heard from The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen or The Cure at their most upbeat. Masha Shurygina’s effervescent yet soulful vocals sit prominently in the mix expressing a sincere affection with directness and clarity hedging no bets about her real feelings. The song reflects that headlong rush of love but also leaves time toward the end of the song to allow yourself some space and time to reflect and embrace what you know is real. Listen to “Heaven is You” on Soundcloud, connect with Mashmellow at the links provided and look out for the group’s new EP Sunday Club.
Velladon may have quit his bands Vampillia and Violent Magic Orchestra (aka VMO) in 2019 but his gift for otherworldly composition remains intact for his solo efforts. Whereas those bands blended classical music structures with the brutality of extreme metal, Velladon’s music for his new album Wisdom Truth (released on June 3, 2020) is more in the realm of ambient and noise. Lead track “SMILE” is initially glitchy and disorienting and returns to that, like someone rapidly changing television stations that seem only to get in malfunctioning feeds, but those extreme bursts of textured sound are spread throughout a transcendent, tranquil passages. Some of those are like floating through a space occupied by decayed radio signals, others are distorted washes, yet others a blissfully gentle melodic drone. Given the context of Acid Thermal’s video treatment for the song one gets the impression of Velladon having tried to take in the grand sweep of human history with snippets borrowed and expressed as a commentary on the angst of the present. In that way it’s like an abstract Zen parable about information overload and how it might distort our perception of events around us. The rapid shifts in tone, tempo and texture in a steady flow are like Sturm und Drang cast in post-industrial sounds. Watch the video for “SMILE” on YouTube and connect with Velladon at the links below.
Daniele Sciolla wrote “SCHERZO” while visiting and recording in some of Europe’s best studios featuring analog synthesizers. The appropriately titled song which is a musical term meaning “a vigorous, light, or playful composition, typically comprising a movement in a symphony or sonata” is an energetic, layered composition of synth arpeggios and tonal drones that make for an uplifting melody and short journey that seems to capture what it must be like to be a subatomic particle attaining higher quantum states until the end when all individual elements of the song unify in the outro. The effect is not unlike a light flickering at increasingly shorter intervals until it stays on. Musically it’s akin to the music for 80s science fiction and horror movies with all those evocative soundtracks but the tonality is bright rather than brooding and dark. Watch the beautifully minimalistic video for “SCHERZO” on YouTube and connect with Daniele Sciolla at the links provided.