Updated: May 7
G H O S T S O F M I A M I – release date 4, May 2020
I must admit being somewhat of a synth connoisseur to my shame I over-looked these guys considerably until I was introduced to them at Outlands Inaugural event in Canada back in July 2019. The rest as they say is retro-history. Their Band camp bio reads: Von Kaiser is a collection of three musicians who don’t just want to remember the music, movies and video games of the 1980s, they want to celebrate it. And celebrate it they do!
Von Kaiser as a collective are unapologetic in their delivery of every track they’ve created marrying sleek production with vocals that punch through their engaging synths. They’re simply a class above as a group and you can tell very much that they love what they do simply by seeing them live. Case and Point in Detroit 2019 when I had the undoubted pleasure of watching them perform and I do hope to catch them live again in Rhode Island in August.
Ghosts of Miami is their 2nd full length release and is full of promise based on the trail of fantastic tracks they’d left in their wake since 2018 such as “Glossy” “Deanna” “Billy” & “Jetpacks”. Objectivity is the name of the game in any real review and whilst I would certainly class myself as a fan I’d wager I’d be more critical as my expectations are high. Read on….
Ghosts of Miami is an engaging title and gives the nod to a city that seems to hold a lot of nostalgia for people from an 80’s retro perspective. Bizarrely having spoken to those who live there, they suggest that the city is bereft of Synthwave. Go figure! Still, Miami itself is steeped in Tropes from Neon Lit buildings to the rustle of the Palm leaves in a gentle sea breeze so it has that going for it at least!
The 1st single off this album is the track “Wavelengths” its 2nd by way of track number but as with all bands who know their audience the track in of itself cracks and fizzles as it should and is a worthy first choice for a release. David’s vocals are perfectly placed and certainly draw you in. There’s a certain raw emotion in the delivery which is definitely engaging. As tracks go it is rather lengthy but don’t let that dissuade you.
The album itself starts out with a track called “Amber”. Brave choice for an album opener as it creeps in to your ears and squats there. It’s quite melodic and refined but unmistakingly retro-sounding when paired with Kaylin’s tone which is what you’ll expect if you know these guys. David swoops in 2m 27secs in though and elevates the track with his incredible vocal ability which finishes the song on a high. When this is played live I’ve no doubt that this track will soar.
This Michigan Trio blazed a trail onto the Synth scene back in 2018 and consist of:
David Mouatt - Vocals, Keys
Kaylin Heydenburg - Vocals, Keys
Jake VanRavenswaay - Keys, Vocals
The following Two tracks “JOI” and “Sliding Doors” couldn’t be more different in presentation and it’s a welcome narrative. The former sounds not unlike a lamentation and again quite melodic with the production aspect of it being quite high. Even without lyrics it would be a punchy instrumental effort. “Sliding Doors” on the other hand gave me Cliff Martinez vibes at the start and I’m totally here for it. The track is sleek and uncompromising and certainly wrestles for my attention in suggesting that it could very well be the shining star on the whole album itself. Subjective though my opinion is I’m sure most of you will agree when you hear it!
By track 5 which is “Hypersleep” you get the distinct feeling that this album isn’t so much a showcase of their undoubted musical ability but more a chance for them to show construction, lyrical intent and flair for composition. It’s another slow number and whilst I enjoyed the track I had hoped that the rest of the album or at least one track would wave the metaphorical smelling salts under my nose to bring me out of the trance the album had put me in up till now. Don’t get me wrong however, there’s literally nothing wrong with an album being as melodic as to offer the listener comfort but I’m a get out of your seat and punch the air kinda girl, there’s nothing quite like that feeling!
The rest of the album follows a similar pattern and narrative. Every track very listenable of course but still leaves me wanting to bounce out of my seat. “Misery City Skyline” is a breath of fresh air though and this being the last track on the Album gave me real hope. All in all, I’m not quite sure what I expected and this is what happens when expectations are higher than Snoop Dogg on 4/20. It’s a solid album full of promise. A few more listens should cement it for me. It’s a grower not a shower and you know something?…I’m alright with that!
Favourite Track: Sliding Doors Least Favourite: Parkway Tropics
Von Kaiser Links