Archive for the ‘Synth pop’ Category



August 7, 2007


The intriguing and eclectic body of work from Canadian one-man-band ZWERG is described as a lyrical journey into the spirit realm, and a musically genre-transcending, psychedelic hybrid of melodic electronica, ethereal dream-pop, emotive alt-rock, whimsical acid jazz, shoe-gazer twee-pop, and contemporized folk. Sounds diverse indeed, but for some curious and unknown reason, it is cohesive. The ‘otherworldliness’ of it all seems to provide an impenetrable thread of continuity throughout. This undoubtedly has much to do with the credo of individualism this inarguably atypical Canadian artist champions with a vengeance…

The word “zwerg” is German and translates as “dwarf”. ZWERG mastermind Eldon Thiele chose this musical moniker because a significant amount of ancestral Germanic blood circulates through those Atlantic Canadian veins of his, and because numerous legends depict dwarves as tenacious warriors of superior pluck! However, according to Thiele, dwarves are all too often dismissed as feeble misfits… Therefore, ZWERG has totally committed himself to defending the misunderstood, the underdog. For there will come a day, Thiele says, when “the last will be first, when the rejected will be restored unto their Inceptor, The Oneness.”

ZWERG is a unique incarnation in that it is stylistically unrestricted, visually avant-garde, and immaterially, spiritually renewing. Though not conservatively religious in any respect, ZWERG’s lyrics are often based on such concepts as the mortality of humanity and the immortality of the soul; the physical versus the metaphysical, as it were. ZWERG is inapprehensive of exploring controversial issues such as hypocrisy in religion, and the realities of the supernatural. His music leads people through a sonic door, to a place where they can sample the surrealistic aesthetic of the Sublime, while still subsisting in the often mundane and depressing natural realm.

ZWERG’s 2005 DVD single tO STaNd, KnEeL stars Gordon Lightfoot’s grandson, Johnny Hoermann, as a Halfling in the single’s accompanying video. Lightfoot was considerably impressed with this release, having bestowed gushing accolades upon Thiele and his skills as a writer and producer. Interestingly enough, and quite appropriate to the fantasy life lived by Thiele through ZWERG, it is indeed the stuff of myth and legend that Thiele and Hoermann ended up meeting, collaborating, and befriending one another. For Thiele’s parents actually met during a 1971 Gordon Lightfoot concert at Gordon College outside of Boston, Massachusetts. And though Thiele grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick, and Hoermann (14 years Thiele’s junior) in rural-suburban Ontario, their paths intersected in 2002 as if in some divine twist of fate. Stranger still is the fact that the boys were completely unaware of each other’s familial identities until a year after their introduction.

The spring of 2007 brings considerable excitement to the ZWERG camp with the highly anticipated release of ZWERG’s 3rd full-length album iNTo tHe 4tH diMeNsiOn, no doubt his most comprehensive and compelling work to date. Though still decidedly distinctive and uncompromising in its execution, 4tH diMeNsiOn is surprisingly radio-friendly with its catchy hooks and accessible chorus melodies that seem to grow on the listener with repeated listens. This album was preceded by Played Wits (2000), and the Rick White (frontman of Erics’ Trip /Elevator) produced To Myopic Mutts (1998) and Sepsis EP (1997).

Jorgen Bremenger

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Audio Sample : 90 seconds


I Satellite

June 17, 2007


If you love early Thompson Twins, or can entertain the idea of a male-fronted Freezepop… you MUST check out I SATELLITE! Rod MacQuarrie’s soft melodies are pure ear-candy on poppy tracks such as Bubbleboy and 12:15 Friday Night. He seriously channels Thompson Twins (circa 1982) on I Want You… with an added Electroclash type of flare. I SATELLITE breaks down their programming to the bare basics, which completely makes their sound work.

Recommendation: If you like your electro pop sticky sweet… and very retro, you will love I SATELLITE . Fans of early Thompson Twins, Men Without Hats, A Flock of Seagulls, and Freezepop, Auto:matic is a must for your music collection.

Meg Erben

Similar artist : Heaven 17

Audio Sample : 60 seconds


Column 5

May 22, 2007


This is the debut album for the band Column 5, a Christian synthpop band originated by Blake Crawford and based in Texas, with fellow band members Micah Banes and Darrin Davis. Beginning in 1999, Blake developed the backstory around which this concept album is based. And when I say developed, I mean he worked out an entire timeline and world view for these songs to be based around. That thorough and painstaking work has paid off, as the songs all flow together, forming a very cohesive story.

The basic gist of the story is this: Post World War III (circa 2079), a united world government has homogenized the whole world – with one accepted set of moral standards. This organization has also established the Public Church Administration, with a Government Issued Bible combining Humanism, Paganism and several other religions into one generic text. The story follows one person’s discovery of the Christian Underground, and the path it leads his life along, becoming a Chaplain in the military forces.

I’ve heard these songs go from early rough demo form to now the finished product, and all I can say is wow. The overall sound balance, quality and texture has been remarkably improved. The songs that seemed somewhat rough and uneven now flow a lot better, the balance between the (occasional) backing female vocals and the lead vocals has been smoothed out, and in general the album sounds very, very professional now.

Musically, the album shows elements of a harder EBM/Electro influence at times, but with a very deep synthpop core. In most of the songs the music is somewhat minimalistic, with the music serving as more of a backdrop for the vocals rather than being the main driving force of the song.

The artwork is very effective in illustrating the world in which the album is set, with several images on each page of the insert to go along with the songs on that page, each illustrating the idea behind the song. The overall effect is a bleak hopefulness, which may sound like a contradiction but makes sense when you see it.

Overall, though some may not like the idea of a concept album, I have found myself really enjoying them. And with the painstaking world-building effort that went into this album, it forms a fascinating picture of what could be. Very much worth a listen!

Jason Baker

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Audio Sample : 90 seconds



April 22, 2007


There’s probably not that many musical movements as misunderstood as new wave. Seen either as a quirky, temporary blip on musical radar or as a campy, cooler-than-it-is-dumb blast from the past, the finer elements of new wave are almost lost in the mists of history. Though the lost art of the wave is apparently stranded in the ‘80s forever, Scientific isn’t going to let the style completely fall out of sight.

With influences that obviously stretch back over a decade’s worth of rock’n’roll development, Scientific boasts a sound well informed by the quirky sounds of new wave, though also strongly rooted in today’s indie scene. It’s a mix that works well on the surface, though it ultimately makes the band’s direction a little hard to decipher. Is it a bunch of revivalists? A well-listened bunch of record nerds? A fun-loving modern act? From the looks of From the Nest of Idea, the world may never know for sure.

With jangly guitars and spacey keyboards that buttress its upbeat pop, Scientific seems lost somewhere between the worlds of Sleater-Kinney and Culture Club. Though the band turns out fairly upbeat keyboard-based pop without becoming syrupy, there’s always a hint of confusion toward its sound that plagues it. Songs like “Fully Out of Time” and “You Wanted Blood” can never decide whether they want to be guitar pop or out-there keyboard rock, indecision that undermines either avenue the band could take on this album.

It’s more of a matter of production than songwriting, however, that makes From the Nest of Idea so elusive. Its songs feature straightforward arrangements that shun the flourishes common with keyboards, while the whole time its pop sense delivers guitar figures with enough personality to hold their own, though there’s never a focal point to the band’s music. A little more time spent dialing in a sound that could order the muddled groups of melodies on this record would provide it with much-needed structure.

The only element Scientific has that serves as any sort of center of attention is its vocals, a feature that backfires on the band. Constricted and nervous, this album’s vocals put a blemish on otherwise enjoyable rock. Though they never become too painful to listen to, Scientific’s music deserves more than to be saddled with such rocky vocals.

Maybe it’s no coincidence this album ends up to be so forgettable. Just like most of the one-hit wonders of new wave’s glory days, they serve a purpose, but quickly evaporate as soon as listeners aren’t immersed in them—a facet of this band’s influences it’ll need to leave in the past if it wants to go anywhere.

– Matt Schild

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Audio Sample : 90 seconds