Janelle – “Fault Lines” (2016)

Janelle brings some heavy synths to the shoegaze world. Fault Line‘s songs flit about like birds in winter, a bit languid and jerky, not purposely flying from place to place but instead just trying to survive one more cold season. The pacing is subdued, though every inch of the sonic canvas is covered with sound, dense waves moving slowly through the cold air. The pace picks up a bit on “Syncopation”, which is like coming up for a breath before slowly sinking back into the cool embrace of the album’s last two songs. There’s something familiar about Fault Lines, but I just can’t place it. But no matter. The comparisons aren’t necessary – it’s enjoyable on its own merit.

You can hear Fault Lines on Bandcamp HERE, and the vinyl is just ten bucks.

Cave Curse – “Future Dust” (2017)

Musicians derive motivation from a multitude of sources. Albums have been influenced by breakups, addiction, and even the simple need for a paycheck or to fulfill a contract. But they can also be ways of coping with the heaviest of losses, death. In the case of Future Dust, that loss was the unexpected passing of Bobby Hussy’s mother. “A record for the stoners, loners and droners of the godforsaken world we live in,” is how the band describes it.

An intriguing blend of darkwave and post-punk, the black and purple of the jacket image perfectly capture the mood of the music. The synths range from trippy and spacey on “Black Box” to oddly triumphant on “The Mess I Had Made” and “Drones (We’re All)”, often blending long low end notes with a 8-bit-ish high end. It’s this sonic disconnect that creates the tension that defines the record, a layer of synthy sugar sprinkled over the top of layer of low drone creating an unexpected combination of flavors.

You can sample some tracks as well as purchase Future Dust on vinyl on Bandcamp HERE.

Digital Leather – “Pink Thunder” (2017)

The first time I wrote about Digital Leather was back in 2013 (wait – how is it even possible I’ve been doing Life in the Vinyl Lane this long??) when I spun their 2006 release Monologue. I don’t know that I’ve spun it since, but in reading that post today as I listen to Pink Thunder I’m struck with a sense of what a difference a decade or so makes, both in terms of Digital Leather’s music and my ability to appreciate it.

Pink Thunder is a blend of dark-yet-poppy synths overlaid with shoegazey vocals, offering a contrast between pop and gloom and conveying that sense of someone trying to give the outward appearance of happiness (the music, the title, and the bright pink vinyl) but who inwardly is filled with melancholy (the vocals). My favorite track is the instrumental “One To One”, perhaps because the lack of vocals leaves it generally upbeat. On the the move downtrodden side I’d recommend “Icy Gray” and “Total Doom” with its triumphant synth refrain.

You can listen to Pink Thunder and buy it on vinyl on the FDH Records Bandcamp page HERE.

Nun – “The Dome” (2018)

Is it just me, or does dark, retro synthwave seem to be on the rise? It seems like you can’t throw a rock these days without hitting some black-clad musician playing a vintage synthesizer and gloomily singing, dragging their words along like a reluctant kid being pulled into church against their will. Fortunately I enjoy this mind of music immeasurably. By way of proof, please see the message I sent to a buddy of my when I first came across Nun’s most recent album, The Dome, a few weeks back.

Nun are from Australia, and it was a good four years between their debut and The Dome, their sophomore effort. Based on some brief listens to their earlier work, the material on The Dome seems a bit more polished – which is neither good nor bad, it just is. I’m particularly partial to the slowly swaying “Pick Up the Phone” and the somewhat gloomier “Fairhaven”. Long synth notes, cold beats, and female vocals layered to create a dark blanket of smothering sound, thick enough that you could wrap it around yourself on a cold and rainy night and while it might not keep you dry, it would allow you to make your way through the dreary city streets unnoticed, an embrace to protect you from what is outside yourself.

You can listen to The Dome on Nun’s Bandcamp page HERE.

Rational Youth – “Future Past Tense” 10″ (2016)

rationalyouthfutureRational Youth were formed in 1981 by a pair of Kraftwerk-loving Canadians, Tracy Howe and Bill Vorn.  They were active during the first half of the 1980s, then again in the second half of the 1990s, and yet again in the late 2000s.  The six-song 10″ from 2016, Future Past Tense, is their most recent release.

Rational Youth have retained their synth-driven sound, and while the feel it a bit retro it’s also updated – at the very least the equipment seems more modern, even if the overall feel of songs like “In The Future” puts it firmly the 1980s, right down to how the samples are used.