Archive for System Syn

The Best Electronic Albums of 2013

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by softsynth

Such a different process of culling the best albums of the year without regular blogging beforehand. Without the regular reviews and check-ins it’s a more daunting, from-scratch process to paw through the various offerings from our genre.

And it’s been a cracker year. In some previous years our first cut narrowed the best of the best to 25-30 great albums, but this year numbers more than 40 in the first cut. Some notables that deserve a mention:

– Depeche Mode return with their strongest album in many years promising more life for the band. The kind of life even old school fans could learn to look forward to again.
– Erasure release a holiday album that turns out to be their best since Nightbird. Haunting Xmas tunes with terrific    originals, the likes of which we weren’t sure they could do anymore.
– Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark make good on the previously-mild promise of their comeback with a great return to form with English Electric.
– Technoir, one of Softsynth’s all time favourites come back without singer Julia Bayer, and with Steffen Gehring becoming “all of Technoir” for We Fall Apart and the results are uneven but surprisingly satisfying.
– Another Softsynth favourite, Diffuzion return with a fantastic EP that promises so much for their new album in 2014.
– Polly Scattergood ends the debate of “electronic, or no?” once and for all with her great album Arrows.
– Goldfrapp begin a debate of “electronic or no?” with a strangely unsatisfying new album.
– Vile Electrodes finally, at long last, released their debut full length album and it fulfilled the tremendous promise we knew the band had.

But what of the best? The cream of the electronic crop in this year of plenty? The choices were difficult but there were a “best”. To whit… Continue reading

The Best Electronic Albums of 2011

Posted in Commentary, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by softsynth

This has been something of a peculiar year for electronic music. Some of the most compelling music from the genre has come from unsigned or yet-to-record-an-album bands. Discoveries like Curxes, Vile Electrodes and Nightlife provided some of the most alive, exciting and dynamic electronic music of the year. It was a year where EPs, instead of full albums, which we measure here today, brought us some of the most interesting glimpses of how good electronic music can be from the likes of Softsynth mainstay Miss FD, The Golden Filter, Tenek, or the three aforementioned bands (perhaps the latest example of how differently we now consume music in the digital age). And it was a year when many of the bands that make up the very foundation of this blog and this blogger’s bedrock musical interests, released new albums only to fall flat. In a year when Erasure, Ladytron, VNV Nation, M83, She Wants Revenge, And One and The Human League released new work it felt like assembling this year’s chart would be a pre-ordained affair, and yet it was surprises, resurfaces and new discoveries that provided the real fodder for our best of the year list in 2011. It was a year when Amy Lee of Evanescence, of all people would give us one of our most compelling electronic songs of the year, covering a Muppets song no less. There were curve balls but ultimately, as is the case every year, the best of the best rises to the top… Continue reading

Review: System Syn – All Seasons Pass

Posted in Review with tags on October 25, 2011 by softsynth

When System Syn crept onto our radar last year with their spectacular album, Strangers, we were confronted with an artist so gifted we were somewhat flummoxed as our concepts of what constituted the best electronic music was spun in a whole new direction. The ambitious multi-media followup posed many questions, namely, can they (“they” being Clint Carney) keep up the momentum.

Well, keep it up they do (he does), and then some. Continue reading

Review: God Module – Séance

Posted in Review with tags , on October 2, 2011 by softsynth

God Module have always danced carefully between industrial aggression and tuneful melody, but on Séance, they’ve hit a new high. Taking advantage of the presence of the extraordinarily talented Clint Carney (System Syn), the band have taken an already-successful formula and perfected it. Never tipping too far into the direction of pure noise, the band have penned a collection of head thrashing songs that also force other body parts into motion. Continue reading

The Softsynth 2010 playlist

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by softsynth

Daunting is the idea of having to single out singles.

a) What do singles even mean in 2010? The digital age, the era of the pre-release leak, the lack of any physical “release” for all intents and purposes, the absence of any television presence where videos are played in any meaningful way – all have lead to a music world where a so-called “single” means no more than any other stand-out track on an album.

b) If breaking down the best albums in a particular genre is as daunting as it was in 2010, the idea of having to attack the mountain of meaningful electronic songs and somehow rank them in a consequential way is beyond the mental capacity of this blogger.

That said, each year there rises an honour roll of sorts, in absolutely no particular order at all, no “first”, no “last” . just those songs (yes, usually singles, but not always) that were constantly on the Softsynth playlist this year; those songs that resonated and rose above the conclave, the 30 “best” electronic songs of 2010. Continue reading

The Best Electronic Albums of 2010

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2010 by softsynth

Is it that time already? Hard to fathom a year has passed since we crowned IAMX as having had the best electronic album of ’09, but here we are. It’s been a very different year for electronic music than last. In 2009 we saw a handful of albums (four at least) that were spectacular, and opened up a wormhole in the genre that led us to incredible new places. For balance we also had a great number of albums that were simply “great” to round out our ten. This year is markedly different. There wasn’t a single release that would qualify as transcendent in the way that handful were last year. What we had instead were a much larger pool of “really good, really enjoyable albums”. That makes the art of building a best-of list that much more challenging. A whole lot of good instead of a select few greats makes for a big pot of soup and that’s a harder thing to differentiate. Still there were a number that floated to the top.

When we build a list such as this we are looking for quality lyrics, well-constructed songs and above all, a sense of true resonance – songs that stay with us and stay fresh. There were albums we gave strong, positive reviews to that within months felt stale, and others that received luke-warm reviews that grew stronger with each listen. This made for a very different list than we might have predicted in the summer or early fall.

Need to say it up front: people love lists. Softsynth is no exception, and accordingly a lot of thought goes into ours. Last year at chart time our readership quadrupled and we’ve had emails and tweets asking when the top 10 is due this year, so we know there’s interest in these posts more than any other through the year. Accordingly we get more debate and even the occasional angry post questioning our choices. How could you choose that, how could you exclude this, and the ever-popular, I can’t believe you consider that to be an electronic album!! It needs saying: this is subjective, as are all of our posts. Debate is awesome and most utterly welcome, but the caveat still needs stating.

It was a big enough challenge breaking it down to a top 25. Going deeper to a top ten harder still. There were a number of great, enjoyable albums that we celebrate outside our top ten from across the genre including Nitzer Ebb, Kant Kino, Hot Chip, Tikkle Me, Cindergarden, Ellie Goulding, Psy’Aviah, Goldfrapp, Ego Likeness, tenek, Hungry Lucy, Ambra Red, Android Lust, The Golden Filter, Alice in Videoland, Diorama, Edge of Dawn, How to Destroy Angels (which was such brilliant work, but after going back and forth we decided a five-song EP shouldn’t be in the mix as the best of the best, but we look forward to a full-length very much), De/Vision and our toughest drop, Parralox (and we know full well with the passage of time this is one we may regret not including in the 10, as its recent release may just have not given us enough time to sit with and properly get to know it over a glass of wine in front of the fire, learning each other’s deepest secrets). Each one of the above albums was terrific and made 2010 a solid, enjoyable year for electronic music, they stayed fresh, and displayed songwriting and performance chops and would have been on a longer list. But this is about the best of the year, the best of the best, the top 10 best electronic albums of 2010. To whit… Continue reading

Review: System Syn – Strangers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 9, 2010 by softsynth

Sometimes we can be as guilty as anyone of pre-judgement. Sometimes we decide what kind of artist we are about to encounter based on the basest of trappings – cover art, a band photo, song titles, even the font used on promotional materials. So it was that at first glance we sized up System Syn and decided – very possibly wanker. Likely inaccessible industrial. Definitely pretentious. Without a doubt forgettable. We were utterly, completely wrong in that initial assessment, across the board.

In glancing over their material throughout their (by which we mean “his” as in Clint Carney, the main impetus behind this US darkwave band) decade-plus history we were delightfully surprised by how much it stood out from other, similarly themed bands were were discovering along the same timeline like the sadly wallpapery Re:\Legion. Crisp melodies, lyrics that delved a little deeper than one might have expected great, stand-out synth hooks. This guy is very, very good at what he does, so strong that he managed to record an electro-stomp version of “Losing My Religion” that works amazingly well.

Which brings us to their new release, StrangersContinue reading