Friday Roundup: Zola Jesus & Johnny Jewel; Satellite Young; ‘Onda de Amor’ & More

Here’s a quick look at some new and newish titles I’ve been enjoying recently.

Satellite Young – ‘Moment in Slow Motion’

Japanese synthwave maestros Satellite Young return today with the touching “Moment in Slow Motion,” which represents the trio’s deeper dive into the R&B realm of mid-1980s Flyte Tyme.


Darkest – Light

It might sound paradoxical for a synth composer named Darkest to create an album called Light, but Darkest’s music thrives on nuance and the unexpected. The album’s eight cuts are dark but not heavy in a cartoonish fashion. They’re a grandiose mass without being religious, and cinematic but not outrageous. This album is the darkest light and a must-have in your collection. “Ave Generosa” features an unlikely collaboration with Kristine, whose voice is usually better suited to ’80s pop & rock songs, but it works well here. “Ascension” is also a major highlight.


Various Artists – Onda De Amor: Synthesized Brazilian Hits That Never Were (1984​-​94)

Brazil’s musical culture is a rich tapestry of styles — as one would expect from a nation as large and diverse as this. In the ’80s and ’90s the country was hit with an onda de amor (a wave of love) of synth-driven music — some cheese, some edge, and all heart. This collection, curated by Millos Kaiser, one half of the Brazilian duo Selvagem, and released by Soundway Records, shines a light on the great music of the nation at a time when it was just coming out of a brutal military dictatorship and embracing democracy. As the nation backslides, perhaps these tunes will remind people of the fruits of liberation.


Zola Jesus – Wiseblood (Johnny Jewel Remixes)

I’ve been a fan of Zola Jesus (Nika Danilova) for nearly a decade. Her compositions are massive yet intimate and her voice conjures up the spirit of all of humanity with every breath. But something extra happened that got me this year: Johnny Jewel did some remixes for her. “Ash to Bone” and “Wiseblood,” from her latest album, 2017’s Okovi, got the Jewel treatment and the result is sublime. In fact, the combination of her voice with the Italians Do It Better head’s danceable synth music makes me yearn for an entire collaboration album. Some day, maybe. What bliss, though. (The “Johnny Jewel Alternate Version” of “Wiseblood” has gotten a million plays in my home.)

You can pick up the digital or vinyl version of this release.


Rory Khan Mohon – Darkly Dreaming

Rory Khan Mohon’s Darkly Dreaming, which was released earlier this year, lives up to its title. It’s a dark, moody affair, populated by 17 nuanced neon-noir synth score cues for a film not yet made. There are moments when this album flows like the Cliff Martinez-Makeup and Vanity Set collaboration that never was, and others when ’80s Vangelis shines through. There are other instances that tend to sound like something released on Burning Witches Records or, yes, like the work of John Carpenter (with or without Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies). But it’s never derivative of any of those composers, instead somehow blending all their better angels into something rich and rewarding for the listener.


Harglow – Harglow

The latest release from Burning Witches Records is Harglow’s self-titled album (and, naturally, it’s sold out on vinyl even though it only came out two days ago). It’s posited as a collection of found recordings with occult ties, but that aside it’s an inventive and engaging expression of dark synthesis. There’s a visceral, abrasive quality to the compositions that catchy melodies and interesting production choices suitably and deftly temper.

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