Archive for December, 2009

Electronic music in 2010

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2009 by softsynth

While not quite the promising bounty with which we were able to look toward 2009 this time last year we can look to the year ahead at a number of very exciting new releases. Goldfrapp’s 5th album is the big deal news around these here parts but we can also look forward to new material from the liked of De/Vision, Diorama, Michigan (rumoured), Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Iris, Covenant, Ashbury Heights, Android Lust, Birthday Massacre, i:scintilla, Conjure One, LCD Soundsystem, Unter Null, Miss FD, Suicide Commando, Distain, Hot Chip, Ellie Goulding and the weirdness that is Ladytron…in the form of producers for Christina Augilara (which makes Softsynth’s virtual head ache with trying to envision the results of this collaboration).

As we look forward to the new year the wheel keeps on turning and lots of great stuff to come…

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Ho.

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2009 by softsynth

So unless there is breaking news in the world of electronic music this will be our last post for at least a few days while we celebrate the holidays with the miniSoftsynths and Mrs. Softsynth. Merry/Happy/Seasons etc to all the readers who pop in here from time to time to read about/discuss electronic music in all its forms.

It was exactly one year ago this blog started (okay the anniversary was yesterday but we were out at Avatar and that took up the whole damn night) and it’s hard to believe it’s only been that long. It’s been a total blast being able to discuss this wonderful form of music with like-minded folks. In the coming year we will keep the reviews and discussions coming; we will also continue to build on the “Bands we miss” and “artist of the month” series devoting more space to up-and-coming acts. Lots planned and hope you keep coming back.

Happy holidays–

Softsynth.

Yeah, so what exactly *is* this “electronic music” anyway?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2009 by softsynth

One of the most compelling aspects of writing a blog on a topic as specific as a particular genre of music is the debate that can erupt over a given choice of word, a definition, an inclusion or exclusion from a list, on the part of devoted, perhaps passionate, perhaps utterly nutso fan of said genre. We have seen a lot of that around here lately in either emails to this blogger, comments on the blog itself, or most entertainingly, on message boards of a particular band as fans of that band pick apart our every utterance, for good or ill, about said band. Our traffic quadrupled and stayed there following our best of the decade lists and best of the year list, and we have found our thoughts shared via twitter or on web sites or message boards and many of the questions raised are genuinely fascinating and astute. Continue reading

The Softsynth seasonal playlist

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by softsynth

We blogged last year about the dearth of holiday-themed alternative music, especially electronic music for the season. One year on and the picture isn’t much brighter. Why should we care? Well, even the most cynical among us (and Softsynth is the very embodiment of cynicism) can’t help but get caught up in at least elements of the season, whatever you may celebrate and seasonal music is a big part of the scene. It’s ubiquitous – you simply cannot escape it, especially if you travel about with say, two Softsynth Jr’s in tow who want to get their Xmas on. so how does a fan of alternative and/or electronic music survive the season and still play along? Continue reading

Review: Nitzer Ebb – Industrial Complex

Posted in Review with tags , on December 14, 2009 by softsynth

They’re baaaack. And about time too, they’ve been sorely missed. Nitzer Ebb’s last effort was their 1995 album, Big Hit, which Softsynth loved but upset many NE fans with its pop influences (we also got to see them on tour that year and they were in fine form). So after nearly 15 years away from the studio what have they deigned to share with us? Something pretty awesome as it turns out.

A little background/perspective first: In 1985/86 a young teenage Softsynthette was just beginning to understand the genre which at that point was either synthpop of the early Depeche Mode/Human League variety or the marginally more experimental O.M.D., or the moodier, slightly gothier strains influenced by the likes of DM’s Black Celebration. We then picked up a cassette of NE’s That Total Age and at first – hated it. A lot. It was just screaming and what sounded like hitting pipes with bits of metal. Shelved it. But we would occasionally pull it down and play it – just to ensure we felt like we were getting out $8.99 Cdn-worth – and it grew on us. By the time Belief came out we were anxious for an Ebb return. And we were rewarded – the song writing was better, the “musicality” was strengthened and the blend was starting to really hit its mark. Each successive album blended more sounds, more melody, and more song craft up to and including Big Hit. But harking back to That Total Age, Nitzer Ebb did more to teach us that there was so much more to electronic music. From the day we first listened to that cassette we began to open our eyes and stretch outward both looking into the disparate roots of the genre as well as looking to different segments of the community including industrial, ambient, trance and dozens more. All thanks to Bon Harris and Douglas McCarthy. Continue reading

Review: Collide – These Eyes Before

Posted in Review with tags , on December 13, 2009 by softsynth

Softsynth is a big fan of Collide, particularly singer KaRIN, also enjoying spin-off with Curve’s Dean Garcia, The Secret Meeting. The difficulty can be in the band’s inconsistent output. Their last album, last year’s Two Headed Monster was fantastic, playing on all the bands strengths, KaRIN’s soaring, powerful voice, crunching guitars, lush synth washes – it worked beautifully.

This year they bring us a collection of sometimes-eccentric covers ranging from Depeche Mode, to Pink Floyd, to Radiohead, to Fleetwood Mack, to David Bowie. Does it work? Not consistently enough. Much of it feels so random. Their version of “Nights in White Satin” or “Rock On” are offputtingly strange and jarring. “I Feel You” and the Beatles’ “Come Together” just feel ordinary bringing nothing new to the originals. The whole thing feels self-indulgent and thrown together and considering how good this band can be it’s all just weird. Continue reading

The Softsynth 2009 Playlist (songs of the year ’09)

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by softsynth

So this will be the last in the long line of “lists” for the year. We had mused about doing up a “best singles of the year list”

and were both overwhelmed by the task at hand and felt persnickety about the notion of being limited to just singles.

The era of the single is definitely upon us what with the death of the CD as the last remaining form of “physical” music and the growth of iTunes culture, but damn it, Softsynth is a creature from the age of album appreciation and the best songs are so often not the tracks sent out to be appreciated by the masses, but those that remain buried in the outer confines of an album. (That said many of the best songs

released there were, indeed, singles, so we’re not limiting ourselves here). It’s what made for the great mixed tapes of yore. (And for those of a certain age, too young for the pure album era of the 70s, but older than those who know only the MP3 era, the mixed tape was a crucial part of our musical upbringing. we created our own playlists, as a kind of precursor to the era we increasingly find ourselves in today via one-off MP3 downloads, but with tracks culled from albums or singles as we saw fit, depending on our mood at a given time.)

This is literally the only time through the year that we open things up to acknowledge the best stuff from various genres, not just electronic music (and in our next post we will revisit the question of what exactly constitutes so-called “electronic music”).We will paint with a wider brush just to fully colour in the year. So away we go, the singles of the year, er, songs of the year, uh…no, the “2009 Softsynth playlist”…

Continue reading