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.
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.
Starlight Girls’ “Teenage Crime” deftly combines emotional urgency with a languid pace and melancholic undertones. Angsty guitar work bursting over a minimalistic keyboard melody washing underneath Christina Bernard’s focused vocals tracing the ebb and flow of mood give the song an unconventional rhythm. Without overcomplicating the soundscape the band uses a wide-ranging and expressive dynamic in the percussion and low end that syncs with the other elements of the song operating in their own dynamics and unifies it all toward a goal of making a song that feels expansive, contemplative and emotionally vibrant. It’s a bit like if Air and modern, noisy, psychedelic band collaborated to create a song that is cool yet fiery that washes the nervous energy in your brain away. Listen to “Teenage Crime” on Soundcloud, connect with Starlight Girls at the links below and look out for the band’s new EP Entitled which was released on June 9, 2020 and available on the group’s Bandcamp page.
Sam Damask saw his artist friend Skele go through a time of tribulation and come through it like a champ. So through his project Grand Commander, Damask wrote a mini epic in homage to his friend casting Skele as a superhero and master of the underworld. With acoustic guitar and some background synth this Grand Commander track is a bit different from the wonderful bombast of some of the project’s other music. But this approach to the songwriting is also more tender and affectionate making Skele the larger than life aspect of the song and not the music itself, like a tale that needed to be told where the music utilized in helping express the emotional colorings is the backdrop that accents and gives structure to the story but is very much allows Damask to paint a picture of his friend’s glorious existence. We should all get such a loving tribute from someone in our lives. Listen to “Skele” on YouTube and connect with Grand Commander at the links provided.
“Written Answers” finds Toronto’s Away Forward channeling a bit of C86, chime-y guitar tunefulness, the intricate, interlocking simple guitar work one hears in 90s shoegaze rock and the dusky nostalgic tones of Julee Cruise. The way the song turns on beautifully executed minor chord progressions and then blossoms into transporting melodies is especially evocative. The band doesn’t find a groove and ride it into affinity. No, its songwriting and gift for dynamic shifts and the emotional impact of not filling in all available space with all sounds in its sonic palette gives the song with a familiar feel and comforting swirls of atmosphere a repeated lisenability. In that way it’s reminiscent of early material from The Sundays but brimming with Slowdive’s penchant for drawing you into a mood of deep introspection and reverie only possible when a band is able to perfectly meld deft songwriting with expert soundscaping. Listen to “Written Answers” on Soundcloud, connect with Away Forward at the links provided and give a listen to the group’s 2020 album Catching The Sun on the project’s Bandcamp page.