NewRetroWave – Equinox EP

coverA lot has been said about the 80′s. Reagonomics, the first space shuttle, the first IBM PC, the Chernobyl disaster. But apart from it being the decade in which I happened to be spawned, I think I’ll mainly remember it for the horrible hairdos and clothes, and the new wave movement. While some people might argue new wave has never left, there definitely seems to be a resurgence of anything new wave in popular culture. How else could you justify the insane pomp that is Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon?

But let’s re-focus for a second. What was that synth-music doing in the background? There’s this thing called chillwave, a mashup between a love for ambient, 80′s new wave and some of the more modern sounds and production techniques. Now take that and put it on a steady diet of amphetamines and a healthy dose of retro, and you get a more energetic version called retrowave.

NewRetroWave’s ‘Equinox EP’ is a collection of songs by artists whose names sound like an alternate universe’s super villains and heroes: MK Ultra, Mega Corp, Kick Puncher, Sagittarius V, Orax. Just the names are enough to spontaneously grow a nasty little mustache and start sporting purple trainers.

The artists’ names actually give a decent preview of what the music sounds like: nothing which will ever be classified as fine art by any means, but a raw energy (definitely purple, by the way) which just plows straight through any objections one might have about the cheesy synths, the even cheesier synths on top of those and the drum beats which sound like they came from the same synthesizers.

‘Fears’ by Orax seems like it starts at the best part of the song. A crescendo arpeggio is soon joined by a synth line mangled through the best NI’s Guitar Rig has to offer. From there on out it’s just 4 more minutes of pure climaxing. Tell me this is not the ideal workout music.

And just when I thought there’s only a single thing missing to make this the quintessential nostalgia trip down retrowave lane, I stumbled on a hidden bonus track in the digital download. Beatbox Machinery’s ‘Cities of the Future’ (reworked by Camille R) continues the synthesizer madness but adds that much-needed sprinkle of terrible vocals. Break out the <add your favourite 80′s beverage here>, we have arrived.

The cover art is from the hands of Ariel Zucker. His art is a great fit for this release. I like the fact that the release package provides an uncoloured sketched version of the cover as well as some extra artwork. All are equally so-wrong-they-are-just-right.

People that have since shed their 80′s outfits might sometimes defend themselves by saying things like “You wouldn’t understand if you weren’t there. You had to live it to understand the moment.” This release is quite like that: there’s no possible reason I should like this at all. However, I just can’t stop listening. Once you listen past the individual elements you’ll get sucked into a world where lasers, cyborgs and complete world domination are yours for the taking. Ahem. If you’re into that sort of thing. Which I’m not. Nothing to see here. Move along.

MK Ultra –  Tears In The Rain

 

Orax – Fears

 

Links:
Release Page


This review was originally published on netlabelism.com, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.

Crown City Rockers – Unreleased Joints, Demos & B​-​Sides

coverSometimes one just gets lucky. As Hugh Laurie put it succinctly in Blackadder the Third: “Like thinking a cat did its business on your pie, and it turns out to be an extra large blueberry!” That’s exactly the kind of fortune that guided us towards “Unreleased Joints, Demos & B​-​Sides” by Crown City Rockers. The rest of this review is really just a formality. They just graduated cum laude from Netlabelism Academy.

Crown City Rockers are a hip-hop quintet that was formed in Boston, and moved out to California to record their first EP. They focus on hip-hop with a type of jazzy live instrumentation. Often likened to Tribe Called Quest, this daring comparison actually makes sense. Yes, Crown City Rockers are that good. You can read their full bio on this last.fm page. A teaser:

The trip to Cali proved to be an adventure in itself. An 18-wheeler totaled all of the group’s instruments and the car they were driving. Once the group finally made it out west, they used the insurance money from the accident to put out a self-titled EP to get their name out.

They have released material on a.o. Basement Records and Insiduous Urban Records. CCR are giving away this collection of B-sides and remixes on MC Raashan Ahmad’s Bandcamp.

‘Unreleased Joints, Demos & B​-​Sides’ features a whopping 16 tracks. They range in tone and contents of the lyrics, but there’s a nice consistency throughout the entire album.

‘Another Day’ quickly turns the slightly over-the-top piano intro into a catchy loop, and we are guided through a day of hectic work life, family problems and having newborn kids. The drums, the piano, distant brass sections mangled through an lfo-filter: it all comes together in a very solid way, accurately catching both the stress and the hope in the track.

‘Mardi Gras’ goes another route. This is pure hedonism, much like the event should be. The instrumentation on this track is simply superb, complementing the jolly madness.

There’s no real gangsta rap on the album. The one track that does deal with some of these topics is approached from a very interesting perspective. ‘Could’ve been’ features a person slowly drowning in melancholy. The instrumentation is nice and subdued, while slowly building up to an inevitable climax, where the voice drowns and is replaced by a narrator that utters the final two verses. A very strong track.

Finally there’s the showcase that is ‘B-Boy remix’. This track features approximately a thousand contributing artists. The form of the lyrics is something worth noting here. Every artist brings their own distinct style to the track. From non-stop alliterating to a voice so deep you need a submarine to explore it fully, this track just exhumes personal identity, staying true to that and finding energy in it.  It’s a spectacular finale to an album which will definitely be in my playlists for a long time to come. Highly recommended.

Crown City Rockers – Another Day (Thes One Remix)

Crown City Rockers – Mardi Gras

Release Page


This review was originally published on netlabelism.com, an online music magazine covering netlabel culture and releases. I was editor for the magazine from January 2011 until December 2014.