Tag Archives: 2015

Retro Promenade is far from a niche label putting out synth covers and fake scores. Here are some key releases to get you started!



Retro Promenade is a label from Austin Texas that releases 1980’s and 1990’s influenced music and art, each releases comes with a limited edition poster. Their music is full of neon synth-wave, unadulterated pop, retro motifs and ultimately fun!



First Up is Retro Promenade’s most recent release Fairmont Futura Turbo. This EP by synth-wave producer Raider is based around the Ford Fairmont. This car might not seem the obvious choice of subject matter for a dreamy and woozy electronic EP but it does make perfect sense. The Ford Fairmont was sold between 1978 and 1983 and the music sounds like it’s been lifted straight out of some cult score and given a contemporary beat. Its laidback, classic and fun. Which I guess is what the designer’s wanted the Fairmont to be too.





An album that everyone at thisyearinmusic immediately fell in lust with was Bart Graft’s Art Exhibition. As their blurb says “It slices; it dices; and it makes french fries in three different…
…you know what? Just have a listen It’ll absolutely blow you away.” Seem legit. Jammin’ with Ariel sounds like Harold Faltermeyer having a go at Brian Eno’s ambient series, but having a laugh with it, instead of making minimal soundscapes. The searing guitar solo is the stand out moment. Why can’t the art galleries I go to play this, instead of Shostakovitch…





One of the best things that Retro Promenade does is commission fake soundtracks to fake films. The standout fake soundtrack is Protector’s 2014 masterpiece Return of the Killer Train. While this film doesn’t exist, in my mind it plays out like a mixture of Duel and Nightmare on Elm Street. Will the killer train be stopped before it claims another victim? You’ll have to listen to find out!





The jewel in Retro Promenade’s crown is its Twin Peak’s album from 2015. Over three volumes that showcased the up and coming producers around at the time, they covered, remixed and released songs that were inspired by the original series and the music. The songs are the same, compositionally, but everything has been given a cool neon synth sheen. If you are, or know of a, Peaker this these are albums for you!





If these links have whet your whistle check out the rest of Retro Promenade’s vast back catalogue including a John Carpenter inspired covers album, an alternative score for Batman as he fights crime in Gotham and their most recent, Die Hard inspired, Christmas album! Retro Promenade is a label that is far more diverse and varied than it first appears, much like the decades and genres it loves.



Oh and going forward how about a version of the Akira soundtrack, just putting it out there Retro Promenade…









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So it’s been 1 year, 12 months, 365 days, 8760 hours, 525,600 minutes, 31,536,000 seconds since thisyearinmusic’s last New Year’s (Dis)Honour list. The whole point of end-of-year-lists is to showcase things that the writer(s) have enjoyed and you, my dear reader, might have missed all the while showing themselves to be much more knowledgably and interesting than you are.



We would like to think that thisyearinmusic is different and we generally try and showcase things that have touched us and defined what 2015 was about, but sadly we’re just as bad as all the others, and this post is just an example of that. Last year’s list was ungainly and bloated, so we’ve tried to cut it down to the bare bones. We won’t be handing out prizes for art direction, production and such, but instead we’ll give you Album and Song of the year, and people to watch out for this year. We aren’t even going to waffle on for ages about why these songs are good and better than millions of over songs released this year, but we will say that each captured the feeling and mood of the year perfectly.


Song of the Year



10. Big Dope P-Still Hood



9. The Bug Zim Version



8. Django Django-Giant



7. Hunck-I’ll Wait




6. The Garden-HaHa



5. Courtney Barnett-Elevator Operator



4. The Death of Pop-Rayban Party



3. Ricky Eats Acid-Carnival of Souls



2. E B U-Dead of Night



  1. Loyle Carner- Tierney Terrace



Album of the Year



10. Warm Brain-Big Wow





9. Grubs-It Must Be Grubs





8. Sasha Siem-Most of the Boys





7. MXLX-^___^





6. Death Grips-Fashion Week





5. Miguel Baptista Benedict-bedsores (regurgitations and loops)



4. Dave Cloud and the Gospel of Power-Today is the Day that they Take me Away



3. Kamasi Washington-The Epic



2. Binker and Moses-Dem Ones




  1. Fairhorns-FUCKUP Rush




One’s to Watch



Activia Benz



Du Bellows



Applewood Road



Oliver Wilde



Baishe Kings


OK, let’s keep this short. The year is coming to an end, rapidly, but standards must be maintained and daily content must be met. So it gives me great pleasure to remind us that Dutch dream pop psychers Pauw are counting down the days until their debut album Macrocosm Microcosm is released next month.



Pauw are basically a love in between prog space soundscapes and dreampop sensibilities. From this brief, but concise description, you get that there is a massage of massive soundscapes but they are coupled with delicious hooks and melodies that keep everything grounded and moving, rather than drifting off into the ether with their weighty ideas about composition and instrumentation.



Macrocosm Microcosm is released on the 22nd of January, and so far only a few songs are available online, but what Pauw have released is exquisite and our collective mouths should be slavering for the official release on whatever format you desire!









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Chas and Dave show they’re still the UK’s premier band



Last night I had the pleasure to watch Chas and Dave. To some Chas and Dave are a dirty word. To those people I question their whether this view is based on their own musical preferences, or peer pressure. Chas and Dave’s music contains an effervescence for life. If you play them on a good day, they make you feel a million times better, listen to them on a bad day and you’ll make you cry. And this isn’t counting their prowess as live musicians.



What makes their gigs such events, is the cross section of society that attend them. Its night on impossible to pigeonhole their fans. Pensioners are mixing with metallers. Football boys are rubbing shoulders with teachers from the university. Parents and their children look relaxed and at easy. It is a perfect microcosm of society, and how everyone should interact without prejudice or distinction.



But what strikes Chas and Dave apart from their peers, isn’t just their musicality, or the ethos that the music is for everyone and no one is excluded, but their ability to not only read the crowd, but pre-empt what they want to hear and feel next. Last night’s gig was a series of well crafted, and constructed peaks and valleys. Just when you thought what the next song would be, they pulled out a different classic from their almost perfect back catalogue. The final 20 minutes could possibly be this reviewers favourite 20 minutes of any set I’ve seen this year.



Oh and it was Chas’ birthday. What more could you want…?









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King of Cats RIP



King of Cats are one of those bands that you either get or you don’t. Front man Max Levy’s scratchy nasal vocals can be off putting at first, but once you get it, you realise that the songs are full of life affirming passion and postmodern pathos. Now Levy has released a new song under his own name, rather than under the King of Cats moniker.



Like his previous material Big Jump is lo-fi, provocative and totally engrossing. Through its three minutes duration Levy weaves a complex story through subtle minimal musical elements. Levy has now retired his King of Cats pseudonym and will release more music under his own name. What is clear however is that it doesn’t matter what name he uses as the music is always incredibly well written and produced. While this is an initial big jump, it appears to be one that could yield some fantastic next year and beyond.









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Activia Benz deliver the perfect antidote to Christmas Carols and turkey



Yesterday I was bemoaning the end of Art is Hard’s Hand Cut Record Club. As its Christmas I’ve been enjoying a self-imposed internet exile from the world, by just hanging out with my family and friends. So today, when I was looking at my feed for the last few days I stumbled across the latest addition to another singles club that has come to define my year.




For those of you who aren’t aware of Activa Benz’, you are in for a treat. There is no time frame as when the songs are released. There is no set genre. There isn’t even a criteria for the artists that release music. They just have to be forward thinking with a sense of humour.



The latest artist to get involved with this epic saga is Carpainter. Seven Sisters start off all lurid and spacey, like a waking dream, then once the beat kicks in, its takes you on a journey through dancefloor culture in 2015, and gives a glimpse of what 2016 could hold. A simple vocal sample adds that all important hookworm that gets lodged in your head and makes you want to play it again!









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Art is Hard end their Hand Cut Record Club in style with I Love Your Lifestyle



So that’s it then. It’s all over. Art is Hard Records have completed their Hand Cut Record Club. Over the last few months they have released a slew lathe cut 7” singles that have run the gambit of indie, synth pop, garage rock and bedsit soul. I would be lying if I said the release of this final record has been met by joy and sadness. The Hand Cut Record Club was something to look forward to, as you never really knew what it was going to be. But now it’s over there will be a slight hole in my months until it is filled by another singles club, or a good run of football results.



The final release is by Swedish band I Love Your Lifestyle. Their distinctive brand of emo is unlike anything that had been released in the HCRC, yet its inclusion works perfectly well everything that has come before. At just shy of two minutes it’s one of the shortest releases in this series, but don’t for a second think that I Love Your Lifestyle have nothing to say. They lyrics are filled with insightful motifs and a slight hint of existentialism that all great music should have.









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Of Arrowe Hill release the second part of their World War 1 theme EP



Last year was the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War. A lot was made about this remembrance celebrations were held. London based musician Adam Easterbrook decided that he would celebrate this by announcing he would release a song for every year the war took place. 1914 was a song about being sent away, being separated from your friends and not knowing where you are going. These are themes that Easterbrook and oAH have written about before, but in the setting of a ‘war song’ they are devastatingly effective.



1915 however is a slightly different beast. Gone is the vinyl crackle and lone acoustic guitar that added the feeling that this was a field recording found by chance in an unlikely place, and while the song doesn’t have the connotations to war of 1914, it does fit in with the spirit of comradery that permeated the previous song. As this is an on-going project it will be interesting to see if a fuller story arc appears or if 1916-1918 end up being stand-alone track. Given what we know about Easterbrook’s perchant for the occult and supernatural let’s hope that one of them is a good old fashioned Christmas ghost story or something Machenian.









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Miguel Baptista Benedict leaves the best for last in 2015



Miguel Baptista Benedict has had a great year. Not only has he released a slew of albums and singles, including the beast mbb_ex album and the glitched out js8h2k singles, but he has now released a new album cow.



Given the diversity and depth of Benedict’s back catalogue cow sits somewhere in the middle between 2013’s Super(b)-Child Ran and this years bedsores (regurgitations and loops). Basically this means that while the music is beautifully crafted and painstakingly organised, there are parts what are just pulsating white noise. While this might not sound like a good thing, given their context in the songs, it is exquisite organised chaos.



The album opens with something that sounds like an Add N to (X) B-Side from 1998, cut up vocals samples that are on the verge of inaudible, but you manage to pick out a few choice words. It’s a bit like going on holiday to a country whose language you studied at school, but you have used/thought about for a decade. You get the jist of it and can work out what’s going on, but you have no idea how to explain what’s wrong with your lunch, without resulting to your native tongue. die ann key ton start off sounding like an ultrasound, while ominous synths fizz and hum about, until a drum beat appears and ushers in the outro. re_2 is made up of a few simple loops that are layered to create an unsettling atmosphere until a faux house melody kicks in which takes the song to an entirely different level. This is the blueprint for the album. Just when you think you have a handle on everything BAM Miguel Baptista Benedict throws in an unexpected element and the song is going off in a totally different tangent.



trek[ed] flush is one of the stand out tracks on cow. A synth builds tension, while a repetitive drum keeps time. As the song progresses glitchy effects lurk and skulk around the shadows of the song, until they are brave enough to come to the forefront and everything takes on a possessed/haunted vibe. yell at selective hearing is the most abrasive track on the album. This doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable, far from it, as it progresses you get drawn into the rich tapestry of its intricate melody, but its not an easy listen. However by the halfway mark you’re so under its spell you don’t realise that its made up of mostly distorted/abused/white nose samples. detergent sounds like a dirty remix of Vangelis as his most fluid and lyrical. This combination really works well and helps push cow into uncharted realms. The album closed as it started with heavily manipulated vocal samples, sounding a bit like a skit form Chris Morris’ excellently twisted Blue Jam series.




Out of all of Benedict’s releases this year it’s hard to pick a favourite. They all sound totally different, but at the same time unmistakably Miguel Baptista Benedict. That being said, there is something about cow’s composition and production that with each listen something new pops out, or you re-think the whole piece. This is a rare trait, and marks a great musician from a bedroom hobbyist. Let’s hope is another vintage year for Miguel Baptista Benedict!










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Ben Lowe first came to my attention when he was part of the band VLAD. For a brief moment VLAD were the most exciting and vibrant band around at that time. But as Eldon Tyrell says in Blade Runner “The light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long” and after two exquisite EP’s they disbanded 2012.



Since then Lowe has gone quiet, minus the odd EP here and there, but now it appears this period of has been well spent as he has released his first solo track Morning After Thoughts. While it isn’t as visceral as his work with VLAD, its chocked full of catchy melodies and insightful lyrics. It shows that Lowe has a tender side and he isn’t afraid to use it.




Let’s just hope that in 2016 Lowe releases the debut album he’s been hinting at for the last few years!









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