The music of Miami Vice perfectly encapsulates that smooth 80’s vibe that we know and love, reserved only for the upper echelon of society. While he’ll never be able to top Jan Hammer’s original compositions for the titular TV series, the vaporwave artist will nonetheless regale us into infinity with his retro DOS-based re-imaginings of that golden age. “Yacht”, our favorite track from newly released Smooth Nights, ambles along haphazardly, like a fun drunk. Reminiscent of an 18 Carat Affair vignette, it’s akin to a really shitty ghettoblaster recording of that snapshot moment in your favorite tune that really gets your heart pumping. The pastel-colored retro synth tracks trip all over the bassline and reverb-soaked percussion in what amounts to the “ringtone worthy” section of some lost one-hit wonder. Miami Vice manages in the space of only a minute-and-a-half to remind us with “Yacht” what we dearly miss about the garish elitist capitalistic excess of the decade to end all decades. Do tha right thing, and grab a free download of Miami Vice’s Smooth Nights right this second, at least to have “Yacht” available at your beck and call for that next house party. We also highly recommend his previous release, Culture Island, if you like that airless, perfectly benign corporatist tone.
Synesthesiæ Films is not only our single favorite Youtube channel, but is also the creator of the official music videos for many of our favorite artists. Utilizing retro found footage and heavy visual editing, Synesthesiæ Films crafts nostalgic video montages for the vintage vibes purveyed by acts like 18 Carat Affair, Holy Other, Klockhaus, and many more. Periodically, they’ll put together a very short “station ID”, melding a choice cut from some lucky VHS-wave artist with washed out footage or decades old vector art. Do tha right thing, and enjoy these teasers created by Synesthesiæ Films, and then subscribe to their Youtube channel for more creative visual insight into the best of today’s electronic acts. You can even download their podcast mixtapes, deemed “Colourcasts”, at their Soundcloud page.
R&B-infused glo-fi superbeing Giraffage churned out a quick rework of Owl Eyes’ “Closure” the other day, complete with all the fringe benefits one might expect from the San Franciscan producer. Free to download, the jam gives a hazy, magic hour vibe to the original composition by heavily appropriating the eloquent howls of today’s chopped and screwed musical movement. Notably toward the end of Giraffage’s remix of “Closure”, Brooke Addamo’s soulful vocals, the retro guitar, and sensual R&B time keeping fade into the background as Charlie Yin (Giraffage) slows that shit down, turning the last bit of the tune into a haunting Chris D’eon-esque concentration on the titular refrain. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of Giraffage’s dreamtrap improvement on Owl Eyes’ Australian electro-pop single “Closure”. Afterwards, check out the original version of the track, and definitely grab a copy of Giraffage’s latest full-length, Needs, as well.
Capo Blanco kicks fucking ass. Our favorite Russian VHS-waver brings energy and sass to the table with every single last little thing that he releases. The slow tempo and sparse analog synth sections in February’s “O’Love” are a match made in heaven with the peaking reverb-soaked percussion and the retro bassline. This tune is a wordless concentration on the core makeup of those funk, boogie, and soul jams of times past; a chopped and screwed italo-disco track, if you will. Come for the vintage electric kickdrumming, and stay for the warped atmospheric synth tracks towards the ambient midsection. We truly believe that Aidar Salihoff (Capo Blanco) is one of the best artists in this subgenre, and we hope that he never stops making music. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of “O’Love”, by Capo Blanco, and soak in the sweet summer vibez today.
After hearing Heathered Pearls’ hypnotic avión remix of Diana’s “Born Again”, we were curious about the quality of last Summer’s original composition. Quite frankly, we’re fast fans. You know how smooth and dreamlike School of Seven Bells’ jams used to be? Then one of the sisters quit, they got signed on to Vagrant Records, and now their sound is mediocre at best. With “Born Again”, that lucid dreaming Balearic vibe is present in full force, and it sounds a bit like what we imagine School of Seven Bells would resemble today if they hadn’t gone to shit. A churning, bubbling layer of synth sounds underscore a selection of retro basslines, analog synth tracks, and exotic samples. In “Born Again”, that smooth late 80’s mood music style that comprises the lion’s share of VHS-wave tunes is the backing instrumentation for a sensible, radio-friendly chillwave song with strong, clear female vocals. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of the Toronto foursome’s experimental pop hit “Born Again” below, and then check out Heathered Pearls’ powerful ambient rework afterwards.
Considering the official release date of this album is February 18, 1990, but the opening track “199X” didn’t appear on Soundcloud until about four months ago, all bets are off as to when </3 hit the airwaves. After falling in love with Dreams West’s self-titled debut, we frequently revisited his spheres of influence in hopes of new material, and this LP just appeared one day, cohesively comprised of material created throughout the past couple of years. Some of the tracks seem to have been released as stand alone singles before Dreams West even came out in 2011. Your favorite producer’s least favorite producer is slowly but surely creating again, but not without this first releasing this beautiful montage of the many shades and facets of his work since the inception of Dreams West. Kicking off with a sprawling Chuck Person-esque mashup of found foreign sound, retro samples, and a wall-of-sound, “199X”, while easily the most experimental jam on </3, really prepares the listener for the coming onslaught of varying vintage sound palettes. Segueing perfectly into the retro Balearic vibe of “Disengage”, one of Dreams West’s better known singles, the album remains steadfastly lo-fi and mid-tempo, yet punchy and user-friendly throughout. Its predominant tone is chopped and screwed funk, boogie, and soul samples from the early to mid-80’s, with the occasional detour into ambient analog synth music and early 90’s dance, the above featured collaboration with Tokyo Hands being an excellent example of that. That title track is easily the strongest song on the release, being a thick colloidal mixture of tape reel-based synthwave and awful 90’s techno haze. It almost sounds like something that Pictureplane may have secretly engineered. “Battery View” and “Sweating”, both being short vignettes, add facets of warped, looped audio glaze and pitch-shifted vocal sampling to the heavily edited VHS-wave experience. “Mind Over MIDI” regresses pleasantly to that sunny, beachside turn of the decade tone, utilizing the synth leads and reverberating toms that truly distinguish the artist from his brethren. At the end of the colorful, exotic journey, the closing track channels Blade Runner- and Apocalypse Now-era Tangerine Dream with an eerie beatless synth symphony of space age triumph and a deep sense of impending doom. If you haven’t already heard the lion’s share of Dreams West’s newer full-length </3, do tha right thing and grab a download of the album at his Bandcamp page. He’s not asking anything for what we consider a fun-filled, nostalgic cinematic excursion, so we think you really ought to do him a solid one and at least pay what you would if you found it at a shop on record day. If you are already well acquainted with the album, then join us in begging Raleigh, North Carolina’s cassette obsessed beatmaker for another one, and soon!
Midnight Runners, our favorite Asian boogie duo, just dropped this sassy new single not ten hours ago via their Soundcloud page. Sporting that phat retro bassline and those italo-disco synth tracks you know and love, “Keep On” is an incurably optimistic synthwave anthem. Despite its pensive half-tempo pacing, this sunny uptown jam really keeps on, with its soulful vocal looping and crisp vintage percussion. Expect no less than a booty bouncin’, bitch bangin’ time with Midnight Runners’ latest single “Keep On”. If you’re a fan of Capo Blanco, Sloslylove, or Spinoff, grab a free MP3 download of the tune after the jump, and be sure to make their Overdive EP your next calculated purchase. This is high class shit, y’all.
We’re pretty much split down the middle about whether or not this jam qualifies as badass or is just hilarious. Japan’s Occult You is Taquwami’s now defunct lo-fi, high energy synthwave side project of sorts, and “Warp Drive” was released about a year-and-a-half ago. Channeling the same retro zaniness of artists like Mi Ami or The Samps, Occult You really takes it away with this particular tune. The digital energy here is packed so tightly that it feels as if “Warp Drive” could spiral out of control any second, but it’s just so in the zone that there’s never any worry. The italo-disco lead synth along with the vintage bassline make for a happenin’ combo, bringing to mind the busy buzz of any souped up 1980’s Tokyo computer laboratory. Simultaneously, though, the whimsical, light-hearted vibe of the track just gives off this laugh-inducing byproduct that begs the listener to hit that “repeat one” button. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of Occult You’s “Warp Drive” below. If you find it as infectious as do we, peruse their catalog, and definitely give the chill beats in Psychic Feelings a solid listen.
Aside from the fantastically appropriated name, Miami Vice really has a handle on that retro lo-fi vibe that we like to call “VHS-wave” in these parts. Brought to our attention via Fortune 500’s Music of the Now Age mix, Miami Vice screams “vintage”. For crissakes’, their debut full-length was released late last year on floppy disk. The above featured track, “Climate Control”, is our top pick from Culture Island, as it perfectly encompasses that hypnotically warm altered state of mind that only something that smacks of one’s childhood can bring about. Perfectly benign rhythm synth tracks ebb and flow like waves surrounding a looped sample, bringing to mind the general vibe of super-mall elevator music or the incurably optimistic Weather Channel loop. Leave it up to Miami Vice to keep you smart, healthy, and en vogue, as only the DOS-based sounds of times past can. Do tha right thing and grab an MP3 download of “Climate Control”, by Miami Vice below. It’s just one piece of the whole experience that is Culture Island, though, so we recommend partaking in that album if you enjoy what you hear today. If you don’t buy the floppy disk, though, we definitely won’t be hatin’.
We’ll spare you the pitch when we mention that 18 Carat Affair, purveyor of bite-sized slice-of-life metropolitan chic from the late 80’s and early 90’s, is considered one of the cornerstone inspirations for many of our favorite retro artists. He’s caught the attention of Scott Hansen (Tycho), and he gets namedropped a lot by George Clanton (Mirror Kisses). Denys Parker (18 Carat Affair) has an impressive catalog of experimental electronic albums, heavily influenced by the synth-funk, italo-disco, and new wave sounds of yore. 90210, the album that features “Got 2 Let U Know”, was released nearly a year ago as 18 Carat Affair’s debut release via Woozy Tribe. As such, it sadly flew a little under the radar, at least in comparison to his much lauded Vintage Romance. The above featured cut from the album stands solidly as one of the best moments of the stereotypically brief release (despite its comparatively lengthy tracks). Like a hazy daydream, “Got 2 Let U Know” samples some heavily edited no-name tune from what we imagine is a top 40 elevator songs chart. Hushed vocals layer over a reverberating beat, a blurry, warped synth, and a bleary oscillating atmospheric track, akin to the oft-used soft focus of that same era. If only the soundtrack to Liquid Sky had been 18 Carat Affair’s “Got 2 Let U Know” on repeat, perhaps we would have felt it was worthy of its place in the 80’s sci-fi canon, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that this is the stuff of neon counter-culture fashion shows and drug-induced upper class hysteria. Do tha right thing, and grab a free MP3 download of “Got 2 Let U Know” today. Afterwards, peruse 18 Carat Affair’s discography. Pure Gold is a great place to start, as it’s kind of a “best of”, but our favorite release to date is easily The Life of Vice. That’s some high dollar shit right there.