Tag Archives: Synthpop

A Brief Guide to Stereolab

Stereolab-1244Unpacking the complete history of Stereolab in detail would require a book—or several. The U.K. outfit, who released a near constant stream of music in the 1990s and 2000s, seemed more like a free-floating project than a group (or “groop,” as they often called themselves). Embracing retrofuturist aesthetics (both in album titles and artwork), hard-left viewpoints, and a general creative restlessness, Stereolab created a daunting back catalog that is as rewarding to listen to as it is challenging to navigate. The group’s initial core of English guitarist Tim Gane and French singer and multi-instrumentalist Laetitia Sadier, gradually expanded to include Australian-born, London-based vocalist/guitarist Mary Hansen, who harmonized with Sadier brilliantly, and Andy Ramsay, whose steady and skilled work on drums became a key hallmark of Stereolab both live and in the studio.

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Veronica Falls Vocalist Roxanne Clifford Explores Synthpop as Patience

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Photography by Cara Robbins

Eight tracks into Patience’s debut synth-pop LP, Dizzy Spells, singer/producer Roxanne Clifford is suddenly joined by a second voice, one that complements her airy choruses and misty-eyed melodies with cloudy French phrases. Fans of Clifford’s former band, Veronica Falls, may recognize the guest’s name if they take a look at the liner notes: Marion Herbain, who was the former Veronica Falls bassist. While the band essentially ceased to exist in 2014—when their social media accounts went silent—the two stayed in touch and are still very close friends.

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The Provocative Dark Pop of Istanbul’s Jakuzi

Jakuzi

Photos by Atilla Eren Gokturk

The dark synth-pop outfit Jakuzi love to provoke. That’s partially due to their background—principal members Kutay Soyocak and Taner Yücel have roots in Istanbul’s underground punk scene. But it’s also because they have a particular knack for arresting visuals. In the video for “Istediğin Gibi Kullan,” from their 2017 full-length debut Fantezi Müzik, the pair are subjected to physical manipulation by a male and female domme while their drummer looks on in disinterest. (At one point, he decides to kill time by playing Candy Crush.)

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On Solo Debut, “Celeste” Composer Lena Raine Makes Personal Struggle Her Muse

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Photography by Sarah Cass

By all appearances, Lena Raine had a very good 2018. The composer delivered one of the best game soundtracks of the year—her score for breakout indie platformer Celeste netted unanimous year-end accolades for its emotionally intense, irresistibly catchy tunes. As the year came to a close, she experienced a career high point, performing with the legendary film composer Hans Zimmer in December at the Games Awards in Los Angeles. Continue reading

Black-Metal-Gone Synthpop Group Ulver Hit American Shores—For the First Time

Ulver

Photo by Elisa Catozzi

When Ulver began in 1993, they were part of a small legion of Norwegian black metal bands whose brutal music was upstaged by their brutal extracurricular activities. But unlike many of their peers, Ulver steered clear of church burnings and homicide; instead, they turned their energies inward, relentlessly reinventing themselves and amassing a catalog that includes everything from drone experiments to ambient masterpieces, film soundtracks to progressive rock concept records.

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Brazilian Producer ÉRICA Takes Center Stage

Erica

Photo by Ariana Miliorini

When Rio de Janeiro-based singer and producer Érica Alves recorded and released her debut solo album, Beautiful, she was at a strange crossroads as an artist. She had already achieved some degree of success in the São Paulo music scene as part of The Drone Lovers, her shoegaze band with producers Davis Genuino and Pedro Zopelar, even scoring an album deal with the recording arts branch of a popular Brazilian beer brand. Everything seemed to be going well. But as soon as she quit her day job as an English teacher to dedicate her time to the recording process, trouble began to surface. Continue reading

As Starchild & The New Romantic, Bryndon Cook Creates Bright Pop and 1980s Funk

Starchild

Photo by Olivia Locher

It’s tempting to describe Bryndon Cook by his affiliations. Over the past few years, he’s loaned his fluid guitar work to synth-pop acts like Kindness and Chairlift. He’s worked closely with Dev Hynes (who records under the name Blood Orange), and last year, they started recording together under the name VeilHymn. Cook also joined Solange’s tour in 2012—first as a guitarist and backup singer and, most recently, as bandleader. But Cook is an exceptionally talented artist in his own right, one whose vision of the world is part soul-churning blues and part airbrushed technicolor pop.

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Album of the Day: Crater, “Unearth”

Seattle synth duo Crater have a thing for the witching hour. Their last album was called Talk to Me So I Can Fall Asleep, and at the outset of “Physical,” from their latest outing Unearth, Cecilia Gomez sings, “You’re the one I call at night / When it’s too late, and we’re the only ones awake.” Their music suits the mood: Talk to Me was a collection of hushed, throbbing songs where bubbling layers of electronics were augmented by ringing, slashing guitars, and clattering rhythms. Unearth, by contrast, is leaner and quieter. Most of its 11 songs contain little beyond Gomez’s aching alto and a bed of burbling, minor-key synths. When bandmate Kessiah Gordon’s guitars do appear, they’re so heavily treated they disappear into the electronics. The scaled-down approach suits the subject matter: most of Unearth deals with love, companionship, betrayal, and obsession, all of it expressed in language as bare and minimal as the arrangements surrounding them.

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