Sanya the Red is a duo hailing from Michigan and Texas that is composed of Daxter (vocals/guitar/keys/bass) and Raven (drums/keys). They recently released Magenta Military Man. The duo explains, “It tells the story of two soulmates.” I’m not going to go into the details but I will say that the story feels a bit mythological and philosophical by delving into topics such as morality.
The music is unequivocally experimental. There is a lot of dissonance, as well as spoken word and overall I would say it is the opposite of pop music. It’s got a David Lynch, theater of the absurd vibe.
“Son of the Morning” is the opener and you are greeted with a haunting set of elements. There is loose percussion, what sounds like a theremin and a steady bass line that keeps it all from falling apart. The vocals are delivered as if out of a horror movie. You hear the words “I am not here.” You can’t but help but think that they are referring to one’s ego. The dramatic flare works well in the song. It moves like molasses and feels like it has no place to explore.
“Juggernaut” sounds a bit like a scene in a movie. There are multiple voices. You can hear some back and forth spoken word but there is also an indistinguishable hollow voice in the background. The whole thing feels ominous. It’s ugly in fantastic ways.
“Through the Faerie Circle” is the centerpiece and I was really impressed by how well it worked with the previous songs. The dangling voices and free jazz sort of vibe is at its best. It’s completely over the top melodramatic but something about it worked. I think it was the abstract quality of the whole thing between the disconnect. The lyrics are ambiguous. Lines like “Harsh starlight pierce the treetops, the toadstools dance in the faerie realm.” are completely open to interpretation.
Last up is “Snake's Head” which sounds like it might be conjuring dead spirits. There is some a cappella singing that I thought sounded great.
Suffice it to say this music is niche. I’m all-in for abstract and haunting qualities and this release delivers the goods. If you are like me I think you will enjoy this release. Take a listen.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Earthset L'Uomo Meccanico 3.9
The Last Years Romance 3.7
Elizabeth Leslie Brave Animal 3.8
Nonberk Nonberk 3.7
LINE Choosing Sides 3.8
Max Mason is an electronic musician and visual artist based in London, UK. Mason has played in various bands over the years as a drummer. Recently, he has begun to spend more time on his solo endeavors and his four-track EP Who Are You? is the results of his focused energies.
This EP is heavily invested in a dance vibe. EDM feels sound off on these energized numbers. Mason experiments on riffs and melodies on these innovative tracks. He melds in sounds of electronic music and ties them together with dance floor aesthetics of techno and house. The sound is altogether amped and loud filled with bouncy beats and raw rhythms that will have clubbers collecting on the dance floors. With a cadence heavily influenced by Daft Punk, The Avalanches, Four Tet, M83, Nine Inch Nails, Animal Collective, Burial, Aphex Twin and many more, Mason incorporates his inspirations while also establishing a sound that is on a platform all its own.
Who Are You? opens with the title-track that contains a spoken word rant towards the beginning about creativity. The rant is angry and fervent. Bouncy beats pave this track. Trumpets go on to trace underneath this song. An energized dance vibe could be felt in the scintillating beats. The synths are fully charged with an amped feel. An invigorating house style is incorporated the music. Flares shot out into the ether of this track. Bleeps and blips make up the sound toward the close.
Following is “Dance In The Rays,” where thumping bass lines pulsate through the start of this song. Mason’s vocals are deep and resonating. He displays a slick crooner-style with his vocal abilities. The track contains a real smooth and soulful appeal. The rhythmic beats underline Mason’s soothing vocals. The synths go on to add an airy ambience. The vocals become distorted and filled with an echo-y effect that resonates with a new wave-inspired feel.
Buoyant beats sound off on “Never Look Down Again.” Discordant effects give off a static-y echo-y sound to the song. An industrial flair could be detected. This track has some dark undertones filled with somber sounds. Next, a more melodious cadence is executed. The contrasts from the first half of the song to the next half are polarizing.
Toward the closer “Golden Visions,” distorted vocals cut in and out of this track. A bit of dissonance weaves in, creating an off-kilter worldview. The vocals are shouted out with gusto. Next, the background vocals come in with an airy vibe, offering up a soaring appeal.
Mason’s music is oftentimes paired with visuals to help enhance the sonic experience. Who Are You? is no different. The EP is accompanied by a short film currently available now. According to the artist, the film is a psychedelic crime drama “about the spiral of life, specifically about falling down that spiral in a very dramatic, substance riddled fashion.”
Who Are You? is a journey through convoluted beats and dissonant effects underlining the vocals with industrial-like riffs. This isn’t your regular EDM fare. Mason fuses his flair for experimentation on these tracks. This adds a unique flavoring to the overall sonic adventure. Mason shows through his intuitiveness that he has a knack for what sounds fit and where. Though each song stands out on its own, these tracks also hone a cohesive cadence that adds weight to his signature sound.
With an amped energy, Mason has concocted many an invigorating and inviting tune. Packed with an EDM vibe, these electronic numbers dish out an electric feel without relinquishing the soul. Mason’s smooth vocal style is at the focal point the heart and soul to these mainly electronic compositions. Fans of dance and techno will find these gems something on their radar. Brimming with an energized dance worthy vibe, I thought these tracks delivered and I expect more great things from this artist.
Signe is a solo pop artist from Chicago, Illinois who recently released Isn't it Familiar? She explains that she originally wanted to make songs you could dance to. After a talk with her songwriting partner they decided to embrace singer/songwriter melodies.
To my ears these songs achieved what they set out to do. Their songs are very melodic but also are absolutely easy to dance to. The beats are distinct and in 4/4. There is also a slight ’80s synth vibe but more contemporary sounding. I thought there were similarities to artists like Stars, Broken Social Scene and The Chromatics.
The first song is called “Chasing The Light'' and you should be able to hear that ’80s flavor in the song. It’s hopeful, maybe even empowering sounding. I was thinking this would be a great song to have in a video montage. This could be the highlight on the EP. The melody is memorable and something you want to get stuck in your head.
“Coffee to Go” is also fantastic. The song is so smooth. I loved how the vocals sounded on this song. There is a section where they utilize a filter on the vocals which I found unique. The build and hook work very well in the song.
“Groundwater” is different from the first two songs. I felt this song was more straight pop and also had the most ballad-like qualities. That being said there are some transitions that make the song fairly funky which was unexpected but cool to hear. “Feels Like Me” is bright and joyful sounding. It sounded better than just the feeling of hope. I was getting the feeling this is the song you listen once you’ve arrived in the moment you’ve been waiting for.
To put it simply. These are great pop songs. I thought the artist did a good job creating four songs which display different sides to her talent but also form a signature sound. That’s about all you can ask for in a debut. Recommended.
Katie Leitner, Max Harrison and Desirée Richardson are Say Femme. The trio formed in 2018 and recently released their first EP entitled Souvenirs. They state, “the EP celebrates strong women, breaking glass ceilings and smashing stereotypes juxtaposed with songs about depression, heartbreak and the perils of chasing perpetual youth.” It should also be noted the music is strongly influenced by their musical backgrounds.
The music to my ears is often catchy and just a pleasure to listen to. There is a delightful palette of warm colors and tones stitched through these songs. They get going with “Better” where you are greeted with hypnotic piano melodies, guitar, bass, drums and even banjo. The vocals are heartfelt, strong and passionate. There is this little hint of ’80s pop in the mic which I thought sounded great. The chorus is certainly hopeful sounding from the lyrics and melody but there is also this undercurrent of pensive thought. There is also the killer build a little before the two-and-a-half-minute mark.
The band has more success with “Layla Jean.” There is some fantastic vocal work on this from the lead to the harmonies. I again heard this little tinge of ’80s pop perhaps mixed with that theatrical flair.
The title track “Souvenirs” is the arguable highlight. I have to point out the vocal work again on this song which is top notch. The theatrical element feels more overt on this song. There is a breakdown section around the one-minute mark where the vocals have enough affectation that I thought it could be in a play.
“Doubt” is perhaps the most poppy sounding song. It’s again very warm and easy on the ears. They pick up the pace on “Don’t Wake Me Up.” There are some great grooves on this song. The organ and keys sound especially good. There is even some spoken word,
This is a great EP. The talent of the trio really shines through. I became a fan. Take a listen.
LowCall is based in Manchester, UK. The band formed five years ago by university friends Rob Berry, Tom Barclay and Jake Graham. They recently released Sad Machines which is a six-song EP.
The band mentions artists such as Smashing Pumpkins, Queens of the Stone Age, Mogwai and Oceansize as influences. I would say their sound is a mix between hard rock, alternative and indie.
They open with “Cutmedown” which is an intro of sorts. There are some powerful dynamic crashes, a blazing guitar solo and reverb laced vocals. They then settle into “Atoms” which finds a solid groove and some of the more catchy vocals on the EP. The bass line in particular got my attention.
“Pulling Teeth” might be the highlight. The music sounds similar to early Smashing Pumpkins and this time around the vocals are caked in reverb. There are some significant changes around the three-minute mark which leads to a hallmark guitar solo. The band is at their most melodic on “Me an You (I was lost)” which contains hypnotic guitar patterns.
“Eclipse” is a solid song that soars. The vocals are stretched out and covered in hall reverb. Some of the guitar riffs reminded me of Dinosaur Jr. Last up is “Temporal Gyrus” which is a subdued song at first that explores melancholy and reflection. The band noticeably speeds up and goes all in with trying to sound epic.
As an engineer myself I felt like the recordings veered towards lo-fi. I would have liked to hear a bit more clarity at times such as more snaps in the snare.
The music felt cohesive with the strongest aspect being the dynamics. They would settle into a groove and then explode a little later in the song. These are the type of things that you are most likely to appreciate in a live setting.
Overall, this was a good EP that fans of the aforementioned bands will surely appreciate. Take a listen.
No Class Assassins is a band from Port Huron and Saint Clair County, Michigan. The band formed in 2009 and recently released The Cruel Fate Of Destiny. The band states “The Cruel Fate Of Destiny is a depressive hardcore metal concept album that takes you down the path of how negative life can be at times....until your world can seem to end.”
There are many ways musicians deal with negative feelings. You can more or less separate it by genre. You can be a singer/songwriter who prefers to softly lament about pain which has been around since the beginning of time. There are of course many other approaches. One of those approaches is getting pissed about it. You have heard this in punk and metal bands for a very long time as well. No Class Assassins chose the latter with these songs and this comes from the distortion filled guitars, the double bass and perhaps most importantly the somewhat classic death metal type growl.
After “Introduction (Cruel Fate)” which sounds like a clip from a movie the band starts to rock out with “Depression (My Compulsive Ways).” The band sounds great from a technical perspective. They sound in the pocket and the drumming was especially good. There are multiple vocal styles in the song but for the most part it’s pretty straightforward metal with some impressive transitions.
“Hookers, Lines and Tweakers” is another snippet that transitions into “Piss Poor Painted Face” which comes out of the gates with zero warning. It’s intense, pissed and cathartic. They continue to crush with “Excess Of Sins.” There are so many transitions in this song. You will not run out of things to keep you interested. “Third Time's Not A Charm” is another killer track with tons of menace combing elements of hardcore punk and metal.
“The Libertine” is one more movie snippet. “Born To Be Chalk Lined” starts off nasty in all the right ways. I loved the dissonance with the double bass drum action. The album progresses with “Pathetic Form Of Life” and the closer “A Parable For Destruction” which continues to form their signature sound.
This album is a must listen for fans of metal and punk. The band brings the goods with fierce tenacity. Recommended.
Cyborcosis is a duo of electronic musicians from the UK with roots in the early ’90s house/trance/techno movement. They recently released Cyborcosys which is a nine-song album.
I graduated high school in the late ’90s and I went to a good amount of raves in Chicago. There was something really cool about raves back then because they weren’t advertised through social media. You heard about underground raves and sometimes they would take place in an abandoned arcade, a warehouse or some place completely novel. Those days are long gone but I still remember the music. I would say at least half the raves have something similar sounding to the album Cyborcosys.
The music on this album feels neo-futuristic. I felt like the imagery was somewhere between Bladerunner and The Matrix. The soundscapes are open and sprawl across cities, lights and technology.
The album gets going with “Spiritual Digital One” which cuts through with electronic beats, sharp synths and alien pads, It’s a driving song that meshes spirituality into the digital domain. On “Dr Cosis Dub” we get to explore ominous alien soundscapes not too far from a group like Boards of Canada.
On “Nitroxica” we go into hyperdrive.The BPM is increased and an arpeggiated synth creates a hypnotic web of sound. They have more success in hyperdrive with “Sw22” and “Bad Dreams” both of which explore metallic synth sounds, metronome tight electronic percussion and encompassing pads.
“Dirty Gangsta Instrumental” is a fitting title. There is a good amount of menace on this track. The song “Cynosurera” might be the highlight. It’s fast and I kept thinking of people trying to keep up with the dance groove. There is a fantastic breakdown that explores resonant filters before the straight ecstasy beat returns.
There were some similarities to Aphex Twin on “Novadrive” while the closer “Rockin Radiation” brings some vocals into the mix.
This is an album that felt more appropriate to listen to at night. I wanted to explore the city on a motorcycle like an anime character or maybe take a quick peek into the current state of rave scene. It brought back memories. Take a listen.
Chance Magnetic is an energetic five-piece hailing from the south coast of Australia. Their moniker harkens to the band members’ chance encounter in early 2019 and their magnetic dynamic that continues to manifest itself that has led to the release of their compelling debut self-titled EP Chance Magnetic.
Their sound spans the funk, blues, hip hop and rock genres. With grave attention to detail, these refreshing and energetic bash of songs revolve around happy beats and a sunny, uplifting sound underlined by smooth vocals. What you get is a varied cadence that would be hard to pinpoint.
Chance Magnetic opens up with “Circle Of Confusion” that persuades with an upbeat and sunny sound. A vibrant and bright cadence coalesces. The track contains uplifting and positive vibes. The vocals are real cool and smooth. The guitar riffs are revving with a melodic-driven sound. Filled with catchy hooks and melodic riffs, the energy on this song is contagious.
Noodling on the electric guitars create a sparse sound on “Haunted.” Next, the bass lines, drums and percussions sidle in. The vocals also come in, spewed out in a fast-paced manner that resembles a rap-like sequence. The energy on this track is palpable. The synergy on this song is certainly an adrenaline rush. Guitar riffs continue to reverberate throughout this track. A real striking cadence.
Sparse numerating on the electric guitar starts off “Shake It Up.” Next, the number becomes more fully established with a fuller band vibe with the support of bass lines, drums and percussions. The beat is jaunty and lively. This is a dance-worthy song as well as being a highlight. Real catchy rhythms and melodic riffs ensues.
A smattering of drums introduces the closing track “Calypso.” Next, electric guitar riffs sound off, adding a low melodic undercurrent. This ballad is a definite slow burn. A departure from the more upbeat cadences of the previous songs, the tempo is a slower saunter with a simmering groove. The sound of trumpets trace the track. The band bids farewell with this apt closer. The soft sounds and catchy layers relay an excellent ending.
Chance Magnetic really lets loose on these captivating rock numbers. Their carefree and blithe energy sets the pace to these lively performances. Like their namesake hints at, you can really feel the band’s chemistry. As the band jams together, their performances showcase their growing rapport. Be sure you have a listen today!
It was about ten to fifteen years ago when I remember synth-pop was starting to become popular again. The popularity of genres can come in waves and I remember when bands like Cut Copy, Wild Nothings, The Chromatics, M83 and many other bands started to make that '80s synth pop sound popular again.
Far West is a synth-pop/indie-pop/dreampop project and certainly falls in this category. The music on Carry Through is created with airy synths, steady grooves and catchy melodies. Up first is the title track and it is a pretty explosive song all things considered. I definitely felt this was M83 territory.
The mood is hopeful, exuberant and generally optimistic sounding, I was a little surprised how buried the vocals were. It was hard to make out the lyrics but you could argue that is part of the aesthetic. At any rate the song ends with a crescendo before the wave crashes for the last couple of seconds.
“A Little Bit Hazy” is a song that could have been on a Drive soundtrack. I was getting imagery of Ryan Gosling driving in his car with that stoic look of his. The verse infectious and the chorus really is quite dynamic going for a very hopeful and epic type of energy. I will say that the guitar work at times reminded me of something you might hear from The Edge of U2.
You could argue “Thunder” is the most single worthy track. The super joyous vibes, not unlike Passion Pit, are covered throughout the whole song. I would say the formula remains largely the same with a more subdued verse and explosive chorus that tries to be huge, epic and almost like you have reached the most intense joy you can experience.
Last but not least is “Let It Slip.” There is just a tinge of stoic nostalgia on this song that I really enjoyed. I thought it was a good way to end the release.
This is a seamless and cohesive release. It’s also straightforward if you are a fan of the genre and appreciate some of the aforementioned artists. This is synth-pop done through the scope of good songwriting. Take a listen.
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