2018 – A retrospective
2018 – The final week of the year feels like a good time to reflect a bit on the UK synth and electro scene. In a year that’s actually been a bit quiet from the OG’s, we’ve had some strong emerging talent, a few forgettable tracks and a live scene explosion both in the North and the South. So let’s start there. Now my last blog discusses the live scene in a little more detail however as an overview, the big dogs of live synthwave in the UK, Outland and Retro Future Fest came out strong again this year with bigger and more frequent shows. We had overseas talent such as Dana Jean Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Vincenzo Salvia, Robert Parker, Morgan Willis (insanely good set that night!!) and Timecop 1983 lured over to our shores to join the established and strong artists such as Sunglasses Kid, Duett and 80s Stallone.
(Michael Oakley at Outland Glasgow 2018)
With them were new UK artists Iversen, Player One and Beckett who all performed live this year. Added into the mix was Steel City Collective who have commanded a presence in the north and linked in with newcomers such as Aeronexus to push some seriously strong dark and atmospheric synth nights that go hard and fast into the early hours. With this they’ve successfully promoted some great charity albums with new artists in the scene. They’re also a couple of very chilled and friendly gents who i’ve enjoyed a few drinks with over the summer.
Next year promises some more big names in the scene making UK debuts, including both FM-84 and The Midnight (who’s live shows are simply sublime.) If you are going, you’ll LOVE it and I’ll see you there.
A lot of credit need to be given to Bones, Jonny, Stu, Brett, Billy and the others for working hard to bring these amazing nights to life. There is nothing better than a live show to truly enjoy the scene and it’s fans.
(Morgan Willis in London for Outland)
So what about new talent? I’ve waxed lyrical about my love for Iversen’s Sophomore album La Faviere this year, so I’ll just direct you to my blog post on that little masterpiece but in terms of new blood, for me it’s easy. Brandon. His 2018 EP Retrochrome, whilst not his first release by any means, was a pure hit vehicle. Particular attention should be paid to opening track ‘She’s on Fire’ with vocals from SJBRAVO that recently got some air time on Andy Last’s Beyond Synth podcast. It’s a strong strong album that brings in shades of French electro and guitar licks that seem to coexist very harmoniously. If Brandon wants to shoot a live performance in my direction, i’m there. He has also released it on vinyl. Grab it whilst you can.
Now I did mention that 2018 wasn’t a big year for the UK Synth and electro OG’s, there was one exception, and that was GUNSHIP. Now I don’t want to attract too much hate, but I didn’t feel that album as much as others seemed to. As always, their production value was high and the rich, enveloping melodies had me feeling I was being cradled in a warm synthy cat basket of tunes but I just didn’t feel it this time around. Maybe it was the long wait, however I think I put it down to progressions in the genre. They are a big dog of the UK scene and I hope they throw some live shows our way. Maybe I need to listen again.
To the contrary though was vocalist and popular artist Ollie Wride, who not only made an honest man of Col Bennett this year by officially joining FM-84, but by releasing a number of solo tracks which have taken the scene by storm. Late 2018’s The Driver has exploded on NewRetroWave’s YouTube channel being the 3rd most played retro video of the year, having only been released in the last couple of months. Ollie’s live and studio vocal ability has been beyond impressive and he deserves all the success that is coming his way. If you don’t have tickets to his event with FM-84 in London during Feb, keep an eye out. I have a spare. I also would not be surprised if there is more live Ollie in UK in 2019.
Finally I just wanted to touch upon vinyl. Now again, I have an early blog post about the vinyl record boom for synthwave in particular, and 2018 has probably been the strongest year yet. I’ve had a number of great dealing with UK’s Timeslave Records who tirelessly throw out some great, sought-after releases as well as running a sister label and attending all number of live events. The guys have even turned their attention to Mini Disc which fits the vaporwave genre to a tee! The lure of Qrates releases has certainly died down as artists strive to find quality record pressing teams to manage their artwork in the correct way and notable vinyl physical releases from Le Cassette and Sunglasses Kid this year have truly helped collectors to ensure their favourites are now amongst their physical collection.
And that’s it. Our UK synthwave 2018 in a neon nutshell. It’s been one hell of a year and 2019 has a lot to live up to. For this blog, 2019 will involve much more regular content. We’re also looking at some other avenues of communication and getting the PFSynth Blog messages out there.. So keep an eye out for us at the next event.
Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to return some videotapes.