There is a lot of good music out there to kick off the new year. Here is a list of some songs, EPs, and albums I’ve been enjoying. (This isn’t representative of everything I’ve been listening to, but highlights some of the standouts.)
Phantoms Vs. Fire – ‘Swim’
The musical project of Italy-based graphic-artist-turned-composer Thiago C. Desant offers an extraordinary palette of acoustic/organic and electronic/synthetic instruments, meticulously splashed onto an absorptive canvas. The record has a prominent Ghostly vibe, expressing the idiosyncratic machinations of the likes of Tycho and even Com Truise. Blasted throughout are nods to Bjork and Emancipator.
I enjoy this record because it takes me outside myself and allows me to dream and breathe. I have a feeling you could very well feel the same. Check it out from Hypersoma Records. (There’s also a deluxe edition with more cuts coming out, too.)
Phono Ghosts & Sferro – ‘Alive in the Timeless Void’
This gem from two accomplished artists isn’t out yet for a couple weeks, but when it does come out via Fonolith you’ll need to get on it. Sferro is a synthwave pioneer, but here he and sometime-collaborator Phono Ghosts have crafted an exquisite work of art that recalls Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and Oneohtrix Point Never, crossed with 2814 and Kuedo. But even with that cadre of souls marking each piece, Phono Ghosts & Sferro manage to infuse their own originality in each measure. I really enjoy this album. You can pre-order it right now (it releases on Jan. 26). Just follow the link in the embed.
Nick Sutton – ‘Transmission Original Soundtrack’
Burning Witches Records has released composer Nick Sutton’s soul-rattling haunt of a score for award-winning short film Transmission. The very limited release of tapes is already sold out, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying the digital version.
Sutton’s synth score is an often eerie and always startling arrangement of music that relies on electronic noise-scapes, synthetic atmospheres, and beloved melodies to convey a stunning emotional complexity.
Mallrat – ‘Better’
An upbeat, modern pop cut from Mallrat is good medicine for a lack of uplift. The lyrics Mallrat sings are sweet like bubble gum but with a dash of bittersweetness, while the music is like a cinematic take on the guitar-meets-electronic vibes of Dissolver, Stumbleine’s collaboration with Violet Skies. It’s a great time all around.
B/I/R/T/H/D/A/Y – ‘Wolfdads’
In December the Oakland, California duo released a fun record filled with gorgeous synth hooks, epic guitar solos and a bigness that calls to mind modern purveyors of progressive things, such as Voyag3r, and classic progressive groups such as Yes. However, it doesn’t stop there. The record also features cuts that lean toward more glitchy, 8-bit fare, some that play like a more modern way to approach synthwave, and others that move along with a groove a la Chic. The variety of experimentation here makes this a refreshing record to experience.
Peter Aries – ‘Nostrum’
Don’t let the awful, cliche neon-grid cover fool you. This is no run-of-the-mill synthwave snoozefest. Peter Aries’ Nostrum is an interesting experiment in taking the use of synths to express nostalgia and tearing down the walls of that paradigm.
The cuts might have a side-chained skeleton — suitable odes to the French Touch heritage of the genre — but on top of it are more complex musical arrangements, experiments with percussion, and beautifully sacred synth atmospheres. This is a nuanced, fun, and interesting collection of music that just happens to be cursed with a truly awful cover that doesn’t represent the music within at all. Get past that and you’ll be pleased.
(Feature Photo: Cropped cover art for Phantoms Vs Fire’s Swim album.)