Dom's back to serve you those crisp cool Chillsynth vibes that he knows all too well. He takes a look at the best of the best for February, do you agree with his choices? Well there's only one way to find out!
February’s numbers are in, and it’s been a long list to reduce to this select few, so it’s time to take that deep in the open pools of chillsynth waters and see which ones rise to the surface…
Creature Gallery – Rain (Revisited) (Single)
A lucky break for us all in my opinion - the original mix of Creature Gallery’s Rain pre-dates The Lounge and, I’ll admit, was one I’d missed. Thankfully with this “revisit”, it has given me suitable opportunity to make a recommendation for this month.
Whilst the sampled weather report might hark back to the likes of The Prodigy sampling Michael Fish, its reference to sunny weathers “before clouding over for rain” sets an ideal tone for this rather pretty number. Without wanting to become pretentious, you could say this one works by being the calm before the storm.
Heavily chained or LFO’ed pads and bass, tricking arpeggios, big filters and bending synths… all this overlaid with gentle high-end lead lines with long but not overtly flooded reverbs - accompanied by stab chords which refrain from being intrusive into the sound and keep the whole song pulsing along rather beautifully. Not too much more that you can really say, but a really great demonstration of how to express an idea and narrative in the genre.
DX17 – Airframe (Single)
I debated for a while if this particular number was a bit too heavy for The Lounge, but once you move past the initial punching bassline - a heavy Roland-like affair - there’s no reason for it not to enjoy its seat at the table, with a simplicity in its form that is quietly refreshing.
The bassline changes are less Emil Rottmayer, and more Florida Skyline, but you can certainly hear the influence of the former in the drumkit and principal lead synths. A typical retro synth warmth that’s difficult not to love when given the fine balance of delays to tumble the sound into the distance.
Now, regular readers might be starting to get a feel that I’m far from fearful of a bit of repetition, perhaps affected by my own techno roots, but whilst there is some here, at a song length of just 3mins 41 seconds I see no need for this to be a concern, and this song is happy to use repeated refrains and simple structure to drive it’s point home.
This allows you just enough to take in the right details and soak in the synthwave a e s t h e t i c in which Airframe is neatly wrapped. Much of the appeal of this track is in the lack of pretence. This is clearly a sound the author enjoys and has made good on. Perhaps a slightly brighter final master might help bring this one out some more, but don’t let that detract from its sheer joy.
M I R A G E - Abyss
With a wavy pitchbend this number opens, and alongside its pulsing synth, it uses an epic sidechain effect to seemingly create the ocean currents which surely inspired its name.
We are treated to an almost mystical lead drained in watery reverb which is offset with a more modest Retrosynth lead before taking a turn with an offset soft high lead. It’s not hard to picture beautiful exotic aquatic creatures twisting and turning in large groups.
It’s a simple drum pattern which pushes through our journey with a particularly subdued snare under the lashings of cassette filter. The considerable amount of melodic variation here really gives the track a sense of an unknown journey into the ocean; you’ll need more than just a snorkel to explore these depths.
Merct – Quantum Travel
Merct’s profile description reads with a coolly understated “I occasionally make music”. It’s a curious affair as Quantum Travel seems to be a huge exception and a stand-out chill track in their roster.
Despite the controlled, filtered, building arp intro, Merct’s latest tune drops swiftly into its main rhythm and pattern with a great force and a natural bounce on the bass that gives you an impression of a much faster tempo. Synth layers, initially, on the arpeggios are subtle but there along with several other discrete elements on a rich sound which allow the sound to evolve as this, comparatively lengthy track, plays out.
From around a minute and a half we get treated to some lush slides on the lead synth, and this is carefully placed with a small change to the snare. These kinds of changes giving texture make a treat for the ears, and when we return from the mid-track breakdown we have the biggest changes yet. The bassline, now more pronounced dominates the soundscape and some chip-esque leads close in prior to the song coming full-circle for the final refrains.
The pre-ending breakdown tricks us into thinking we might get a further evolution, with its tapping bass and high pads – sadly, no. Perhaps, with the unusual structure, this song was something of an experiment for the author, but if so, it’s a successful one for sure, and a direction worth exploring.
Cirrus – Airflow
A good one minute 20’s worth of ambient build up before slapping in those synth chords? Why not!
What a welcome refresh in the air - allowing a bit of room to breathe in this relaxing yet busy number from cirrus. I’ve got to be careful with the air related metaphors here though.
there’s a great playfulness in the layers here. Building from those initial stabs, a thick bass layer follows with an escalating arp before taking us along with wistful leads and its thumb tapping beats culminating in a well balanced main section which can only be described as the classic chillsynth sound.
It’s no wonder the artwork conjures images of holiday trips away, given the enjoyable journey the song brought us through.
Teasing us in its breakdown as If the song might end as it begun, it concludes on something of a melodic tangent after its final repeat, leaving the listener to ponder what direction it will be taken in next….
And a quick mention for….
Cumulostratus have had a busy month, with ‘Sunlight Woods’ featured by the chillsynth megalith that is Stratford Ct. with their “Secret Selection” #79, plus the arguably the stronger Autumn Hozizons also releasing during February.
T-120 delivers an aptly title ‘Rest’ as a new song, well worth spending some time on, with a beautiful breakdown as one of the highlights of the piece.
Downtown Binary sneaked ‘Endless Twilight’ in at the end of the month
And lastly, it’s MEGAS who continues to deliver what is expected, this time with the melodic and soulful ‘Solemn Pictures Of Eternity’
Post compiled and presented by Dom Cresswell, Chillsynth Contributor for Forged in Neon. Dom is the face and sound of AUW, his own music project which considerably evolved from his stint at the London College of Music & Media, and has remained heavily influenced by the synthesizer hardware legends of the 1980s. As an in-house remixer and producer for the Happy Robots label, he was the producer and engineer for the Arthur & Martha album 'Navigation' (acclaimed by The Guardian, NME, Uncut, and played on BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music).