Nocturnal by The Midnight

The Midnight are a two-piece synthwave band consisting of songwriter Tyler Lyle and producer Tim McEwan. They are from the American deep south and Denmark respectively. However, they now both live in Los Angeles and make some of the coolest music of the past few years.

They are well respected, often revered, within the Synthwave community. Their music is awash with eighties retro sensibilities and an innate ability to bring back the parts of that era we often see through rose-tinted glasses.

Nocturnal by The Midnight

Nocturnal is the third full album release by The Midnight and is as strong an album as I have come to expect from them.

We open the album with footsteps on a rainy Los Angeles street. The sirens in the background and the initial synth pads that swoon in gave me similar feels to Sarah Connor before ducking into the Tech Noir. I wasn’t to know just how close to the Terminator we were going to come with this album – more on this in a moment. This first song, ‘Shadows’, is a steady beat and synth driven tune that soon showcases singer Tyler Lyle’s awesome, almost vulnerable feeling, vocals. And you best believe there is a little bit of Saxophone sprinkled in there too. This song brings you straight into the era they are shooting for with style.

The Midnight live in LA with Nikki Flores
The Midnight live in LA with Nikki Flores

It was great to hear Nikki Flores’ return after her previous collaboration with The Midnight on the previous album’s hit ‘Jason’. This time she takes the microphone for ‘Light Years’, her voice pairing perfectly with Tyler’s. Meanwhile on ‘River of Darkness’, we are treating to a different kind of collaboration. Fellow Synthwave artist Timecop1983 helps out in the production of ‘River of Darkness’, creating a stunning mid section to the album.

Inspired by the greatest

‘Crystalline’ is most definitely one of the stand-out songs for me on this album. It was also the first single to be shown off from Nocturnal. The vocals continue with their dreamlike delivery as we are led into what can only be described as a head nod towards Phil Collins. The drum fill that thrusts us into the wailing Saxophone solo, sounds wonderfully inspired by those infamous beats from ‘In The Air Tonight’.

The title track on this album feels like a love letter to Brad Fiedel – the composer from the Terminator. The song begins so close to one of the most iconic film themes ever written. The iconic theme I speak of is the main theme from the Terminator. Again, as with the Phil Collins flavours on Crystalline, these Terminator-esque beats are merely a jumping off point. The song soon blossoms into its own deep synth bass/beat driven beast. Noctural also featured synthesizer sounds that sounded identical to ones used in the film.

These inspirations seem to come from a place of deep love and respect for the era and the artists. As opposed to simply being a popular retro vehicle for them to write on. It’s the delicate touches throughout this album that put it in the upper circle.

Summary

Even though Synthwave is one of my favourite musical genres, I don’t tend to write about it that often. This is only due to the fact that I think I’d end up repeating myself with most albums and artists. Most I’ve heard have been great, but there are those special few that warrant the time it takes. FM-84 are one such band, The Midnight are another.

Not once was I awoken from their retro spell during this album. When listening, you will be transported to an idealistic moment of the eighties – if you allow yourself. A moment pieced together from your own memories of films and tv shows of the time. Those memories then bound together with the beautiful music from Nocturnal by The Midnight.

Between hope and danger by Hante

Hante’s music is always a dark, dreamy escape that I am addicted to getting lost into. As soon as I learned of her new release, ‘Between Hope and Danger’, I immediately had to listen to it. From the get go it contained everything I love about her music – mystery-entrenched soundscapes of unapologetic synth. That and her haunting, echo chamber style vocals.

The opening, “Le Point de Non-Retour”, was a dark choice with a Gothic choir accompaniment and a buzzsaw-style style. Characteristic of a relatively new style of music I’ve discovered called “Witch House”.

“Lies // Light” sounds like she’s experimenting with a typical Synthwave / Outrun style, but still in keeping with her own aesthetic. At times this song has sounds that remind me of old-skool Sega MegaDrive games. This is only going to be a good thing.

To my ears, she is at her darkest during the song “Eternite”. A sweeping, eerie synth is met by a devil’s organ and married by her wistful voice.

In the titular song, “Between hope and danger”, I might be mad, but I can hear references to both John Carpenter – who is par for the course in modern electronic music – and Angelo Badalamenti. For those who aren’t familiar with Angelo, he is the man responsible for many of David Lynch’s film scores. “Between hope and Danger” had echoes for me back to his main theme for Mulholland Drive.

All in all this album is a terrific addition to an already impressive body of work.

P.S. If you’d like to get to know the lady behind this great music, you can read my interview with Hante.

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Interview with French Electronic artist Hante

During my recent exposure to synthwave music, I have discovered an exciting French Electronic artist by the name of “Hante”. Her music edges towards the darker side of synthwave, and is one of the artists who is easily identifiable among her synthwave contemporaries. Whenever I hear a song by Hante, it feels like Hante.

I have written up a review of her release, “Between Hope and Danger” too, which you can read here.

I was excited when she agreed to answer my questions. Please read on below to find out more about the lady behind Hante.

The Interview

Please tell us about yourself in as many or as little words as you like.
Hi! I’m Hélène. I’m behind the solo project “Hante“. Since the beginning of the year, I’m running my own label “Synth Religion” in the beautiful but sometimes suffocating city of Paris.
Growing up, who were your heroes in music?
As a kid, I was fascinated by Freddy Mercury, his voice, his charisma. Queen has been a huge part of my childhood’s soundtrack. Also, Serge Gainsbourg, Michael Jackson… But the discovering of Radiohead when I was a teenager, has been a massive turn in my music tastes. The album “Ok Computer” was and still is a real masterpiece and a big influence for me.
Growing up, who were your heroes outside of music?
I was really into Cinema and I loved lots of characters and actors. I think about the french actor Louis de Funes, Robin Williams (more than amazing as Peter Pan in Hook), the kids in Stand by Me and in The Goonies, Elliott in ET, Wednesday in The Addams Family, among so many others…
What was the first album you remember buying?
Honest answer: the soundtrack of Aladdin lol. But if you mean the one who really changed my life, as I said before it’s “Ok Computer” from Radiohead.
Was there any defining moment in your life when you knew that you wanted to make music?
I started taking music theory courses, piano, harp and singing lessons really young, so music has always been a big part of my life. I was composing stupid depressing music in my bedroom when I was a teenager. But the turn was at the beginning of my twenties when two friends of mine started a metal band. They asked me to write some lyrics. We were in the rehearsal room and I started singing shyly on the chorus. They said “You have to be our singer”. It was one of the most exciting moment of my life, like “OMG I’m in a band!!” haha. Since then, nothing made me feel more alive, prouder of myself, than composing music and playing on stage.
Who is your biggest influence in how you approach what you do today?
I would say Depeche Mode (all their 80’s albums), a mix between dark, emotional and new wave sounds. But of course, a lot of bands influence my work nowadays. For each album I composed, I was really into two or three bands and it inspired my work a lot. For my next album for example, I’m really influenced by a french band called Las Aves. I love their bass synth sounds, it’s very contemporary. I also love the latest album of Bat For Lashes, I love the cinematographic approach.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
I would say my performance this year at the WGT festival in Germany. It was the first time I was playing alone in front of so many people. And even if I have to admit that it was not my best performance so far, I felt very proud to have done it all by myself. I’m kinda shy and discreet in my everyday life and this is amazing how you can be different on stage. I feel powerful and confident, it’s a real therapy for me!
What is your favourite Book?
I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a while since I’ve read a book! So I would say a collection of poems that my grand-mother gave to me. The title is “les cent plus beaux poèmes de la langue française” (The hundred most beautiful poems of the french language). It inspired and still inspires me a lot.
What is your favourite Album?
It’s really hard to say, because I’m always obsessed by a new album. But I would say that the last huge crush that I had was a few years ago, “Sentinelle” from Xeno and Oaklander.
What is your favourite Film?
“Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind” from Michel Gondry or “The Big Blue” from Luc Besson.
What is your favourite TV Show?
I absolutely love TV shows, it’s my favorite hobby. So I don’t know what to choose! Maybe “Friends”, a classic one, but the best finale is without hesitation the one of “Six Feet Under”.
Do you have a favourite film/tv/musical soundtrack?
“Virgin Suicides” from Air, the soundtrack of the Sofia Coppola movie that I absolutely love too.
Are there any new albums you are binge listening to at the moment?
“Die in Shanghai” from Las Aves, “The Bride” from Bat of Lashes, “Everywhere I go is Silence” from Box and the Twins that I just released on my label, I’m absolutely in love with this album!
What other artists should I be listening to?
It depends what kind of music you want to listen to! Gold Zebra, Xarah Dion, Hørd, CONFRONTATIONAL, Selofan, Ash Code, Kælan Mikla…
You’re walking somewhere and your mp3 player has only a little battery left; You’ve only got time for one more song. What song do you play?
Right now, I would like to listen to “My Lady Blue” from Eric Serra, the beautiful song of “The Big Blue” soundtrack. I have it in mind thanks to this interview!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t waste your time trying to find a B plan, follow your heart and make music your A plan right away!!
If you could ask any person – living or passed – any question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
To be honest, I find this kind of question really tricky lol. You try to think about something smart and then something more personal but it would be too self-centred compared to all the funny, tragic, essential questions you could ask to all the people who are living or lived in this world. So I decide to not ask anything!
Could you tell us a joke?
I’m more the kind of people to laugh to other people jokes than the kind to tell jokes!
Also, do you have any plans to play in the UK?
Nothing planned for now, but I really would like to play in the UK in 2017!

Thank you Hélène

A big thanks to Hélène for taking the time to answer these questions. I really appreciate the time it has probably taken to read through all these questions and answer them as honestly and completely as she has.

If Hante does play in U.K. in 2017, I’ll be the first one at the door.

No Hard Feelings by Hante

Listening to No Hard Feelings by Hante makes me feel a lot more cultured than I am.

Hante is a hugely talented Electronic / Synthwave / Darkwave artist hailing from Paris, France. Her music is darkly melancholic that completely envelopes you when you listen.

I always imagine myself sat in some smokey underground Parisian nightclub when I hear it.

The E.P. has five songs and each one is golden. The first one I heard was actually the second song, “À Contrecoeur”, which Google tells me is French for “Unwillingly”. Everything about this song oozes cool. The opening twangy lick on what I think is an electric guitar; The main awesome synth attack melody that comes in at about the thirty one second mark; Hante’s haunting vocals mixed with the awesome wall of sound that she has created. The song, and indeed the entire E.P., is an amazingly powerful, dark electronic experience.

Nothing’s gonna happen
I’m sinking in a fantasy
If we love each other
Why can’t we be dreaming together?

Living in a French Movie by Hante

“Une Nuit Avec Mon Ennemi”, the third song, has yet more catchy, dark heavy synth melodies arranged with her ghostly delivery. This is how dark synth should be – dark but not depressing.

In “Quiet Violence” Hante seems to push herself further with her vocals. She sounds bigger; more commanding in the delivery and the song is one of the E.P.’s biggest-sounding as a result.

On the whole this music is some of the most interesting I’ve heard in a long while. While I love all the music I write about, “No Hard Feelings” by Hante is in a small collection of exceptional recordings that are completely fresh to my ears.

Anybody looking to broaden their own musical tastes and need a tip on where to look – look no further than Hante.

Please head over to Hante’s Bandcamp page and buy her music.

Atlas by FM-84

FM-84 is one of the first artists I heard from out of the New Retro Wave genre of music. And his debut album, Atlas, is already a crowning achievement in his relatively new career.

Every song has the perfect feel of 80’s Americana, or at least this Englishman’s idea of what that is. Of course my only real notions of 80’s America come from the films and music I grew up on.

I write sun-soaked 80s inspired cinematic dreamwave and synth pop.FM-84’s Bio from SoundCloud

FM-84’s Bio from SoundCloud

Hearing Atlas by FM-84 is like hearing a soundtrack to the best 80’s film I’ve never seen.

Consistently great feelings track to track

The album opens with what I can only describe as being similar to those expensive keyboard drumbeats I remember experimenting with when I was at school – only a lot more professional sounding. The drum is clean, hefty and has a fever-inducing beat that makes me imagine what it might be like to drive parallel to the ocean in Los Angeles at sunset.

Like the opening song “Everything”, half of the songs on this album are electronic instrumentals. Those that do feature vocals are some of the best soundtracks for my own personal montages when I’m driving around.

Yes I have driven around listening to Atlas, whilst imagining I’m in a similar scene to Rocky Balboa’s flashback montage in Rocky IV.

Pardon the swearing, but “Running In The Night” is one of the best fecking songs I’ve heard this year. It has everything I love in a song – passion in the vocals; awesome instrumentation and arrangement and the ability for me to pretend I’m in a film’s montage. It’s that good. Also the featured vocalist and co-writer on this song, “Ollie Wride“, has the best sounding voice for this style of music that I’ve heard.

“Let’s Talk”, another of the albums vocal-led songs – this time provided by Josh Dally, is so powerfully performed. The singing is delivered with a passion you just have to experience. It feel’s like the end credits song to a John Hughes film.

Each and every one of the songs on Atlas are simply great – they provide a good variety as well as being really well paced. Even the closing song, “Goodbye”, actually sounds like a closing song with it’s slower more reflective words and sound.

As summer fades away
Lost in a cloudless haze
Just hold me and touch a wave
There’s no more we need to say

Yet I don’t want to say goodbye
And I don’t want to see you cry

Goodbye (feat. Clive Farrington) from Atlas by FM-84

It’s obvious when listening to Atlas that FM-84 has a deep appreciation for the era he is harking back to. And it shows with every single second of this Album. There isn’t a single song that begs a skip past – instead every song demands multiple listens, each time louder than the last.

Racing towards the sunset

Atlas by FM-84 was a complete departure from what I had been listening to up till this point. I don’t even know how to explain how I got on without knowing about this whole musical genre, let alone Atlas.

I also want to say a huge thank you to FM-84 for making this whole album available on SoundCloud. However you should also be buying it from one of the retailers listed on this page.

I don’t think we realise just how lucky we are when someone like FM-84 comes along with such a passion for a musical / artistic era, and manages to create something completely fresh and reinvigorating with it. This is both one of my favourite albums of the 80s as well as today.