Various Artists – [2010] SYNTHEMATIKA TWO

Essential industrial synth-pop compilation from the golden age of netlabels.

In only five years from 2009 to 2014, netlabel Synthematik managed to publish over 30 albums or compilations with a matching style, this being my third review and more to come surely. That style is industrial future pop, so distorted sawtooth synth pads galore and half-shouted lyrics abound.

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Ballpen – [2010] The Dreams Trilogy

Dreamy friend of electro acoustic experimental sounds, akin to Crepusculum. Sleepy weird well crafted.

If that text blurb threw you off a bit – that was intentional. This album has the same effect on me. While it is clearly expertly crafted, the songs never seem to “start” for me. Yet, they make perfect backdrop material for me writing this very text, so apparently they do something right. And from the praise it has drawn back in 2010, not all can be pure hype, can it?

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Ezhak – [2016] Cold Sky

Funky vaporwave. Essential genre entry, while avoiding most (not all) clichés.

I am internally divided about what to make of the genre vaporwave. On the one hand, it is the clear over-exaggeration of the 80’s revival trend that has drowned the independent music scene in endless covers of the good old synth sound of better times. On the other hand, I find some mellow comfort in those strange yet familiar tunes that fake old, low-fidelity production techniques, drowning in tape artefacts and surreal depictions of consumer culture totems of the 90’s in a visual style that borders on graphic design necrophilia. But back to the music. I chose this release to introduce the genre to this blog because it avoids most clichés, while staying true to the core formula of vaporwave: slow-paced production, heavy sampling, simple synth song structures. And then Ezhak adds plenty of groove on top, making the result unusually enjoyable; not bad for a style that otherwise can only be enjoyed satirically or at least ironically.

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Various Artists – [2008] The Silent Ballet, Volume VII: Có Vẻ Như Trời Sẽ Ngớt Mưa

Carefully crafted slightly experimental ambient post rock or drone tracks, with tender vocal tracks throughout.

This marks my fifth review for one of the Silent Ballet compilation entries. This series is – or rather was – centred around ambient post rock, with a focus on experimental artists around the world. This entry is no exception. Mostly calm, slow tracks are featured on this instalment. See which two tracks I after the fold:

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PeerGynt Lobogris – [2011] The Edge of Forever

Varied showcase of versatile artist from prog rock over downtempo to classic piano.

This Spanish music producer probably is one of the most active members on music licensing platform Jamendo: exactly 60 releases ranging from 2007 to 2020. Guitar centric progressive rock is his staple, but he does not like to limit himself to a single genre per album. Note to self: review more of his output, this stuff is good!

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Stikleader – [2013] Melody of the Clouds V2

83 minutes of uninterrupted instrumental laid-back techno. Easy on the ears, late night compatible.

Calm beats and uninterrupted synth backdrops await you in this movie-length continuous mix. Released at apparently defunct Spanish netlabel surrealfreak, the artist chose some 16 tracks. A track listing can be found on Russian site Techno-Locator, in case you want to hunt down the original artists.

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King Shi – [2018] Red (LP)

Expertly produced fusion of instrumental hip hop and trip hop. Groovy, yet downtempo goodness.

Netlabel Dusted Wax manages to stick close to its signature sound, which sometimes can become boring for a treasure hunter like me, always curious for a new sound experience. This release is such an experience: familiar flavour, but new spices added left and right, and the result is all the better for it: delicious beats, served with specially recorded instrument tracks, and electronic effects on top.

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Alex Mason – [2020] Dark

Rich field recording soundscapes combined with creepily dark ambient drones.

Content warning: this album could be the soundtrack to a yet to be released dark pyscho thriller playing in the woods Norway or Canada. Suspense, excellent use of string instruments from bass to violin make this an experience to behold. Best served with headphones late at night. Shivers guaranteed! And the obligatory reminder: if you like what they give away for free, consider supporting the artist financially (e.g. via Bandcamp).

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Chico Correa & Electronic Band – [2006] Chico Correa & Electronic Band

Unique blend of latin flavour and electronic sound. Great vocals on top make this a rare find.

For this review, I had to stick on plenty of genre tags. Both jazz fusion and electronic IDM seem fitting descriptions. Then there’s a downtempo or chillout influence. And finally the world and latin tags to locate the music style geographically. And all that back in 2006, released on notoriously good (and still active) netlabel Bump Foot. And if you want to check out more recent stuff by the artist, find them on Bandcamp (latest release from 2020).

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Code Therapy – [2018] Scape From Reality EP

Icy tech house with beats and style. Monotonic bass lines included. Bring headphones or subwoofers.

When listening to tech house, I am always drawn between two opposite judgments: cool music, but boring structure. No harmonies to speak of, no tempo changes, simplest rhythms, only beats, bass, buildup, some more, wait, DROP, and once again. Why does this even work?

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