‘The Dr will see you now’ – The return of Robert Parker
Back in 2018 I was wandering the halls of Retro Future Fest 2 and spent some time in the green room. It was a crazy evening. Synthwave legend Damokles (who recently performed an outstanding live stream!) was on a grand piano playing 70s and 80s classic whilst Nightstop sat in the corner tapping their feet. It was as awesome as it was bizarre. Looking for a beer, I was pointed in the direction of the fridge in the corner and as I strolled over a man reached it at the same time as me. He opened the door and we both realised quite quickly that there was only one cold beer left. He quickly grabbed it, turned to me and said ‘dude, you take this one.. I’ll have a warm one from the case above’. After a few, ‘no you take it’… ‘I insist, you take it’ back and forwards I accepted the kind offer. He popped the cap off and handed me the icy brew. That man was Dr Robert Parker. Synthwave artist and Doctor who has been out saving the world.
Despite the craziness that is 2020 and his obvious day job commitments, Robert has had the time to release ‘Club 707’, this new EP. Fakeman took a little time to listen at what one of the most consistent artists in the scene has to offer this time round. Now I don’t want you to get drunk, but that’s a very expensive glass of Chardonnay you’re NOT drinking there. So grab it and lets have a listen…
A Light In The Dark (Feat. Doubleboy)
707’s opening track brings us straight into what know as Parker’s signature sound. That beastly base and outrun undertone. Shades of Crystal City are strong and Doubleboy’s top line makes it sound like a strong 80s / 90s club classic. You can dance, you can nod your head, you can reminisce of those night at the beach with your portable CD player getting jammed with sand. Equally, the track is at home drenched in neon on the dark dance floor.. Quality and consistency-wise that musical breadth has not been around the synthwave scene for a while. Parker and a few other are notable exceptions, with the ever-improving ‘Lost Outrider’ also being a great example.
Back On Track
Back On Track continues that Parker brand of beat and synth. It takes us back to the classic synth tracks of the early days that brought many of us here in the first place. It isn’t a complex track that needs to try hard, which is a testament to Parker’s skill and ability. About 3/5th of the way in the synths sing as the baseline kicks back in and the layered beats introduce themselves. It’s smooth.
Lazerstep immediately throws you back to the classic beats of the 1980s. It’s crisp in its delivery and brought out strong Human League memories for me. Despite being the shortest track on the EP, it shines.
A Lash Of Light
Echos of Valerie are apparent from the opening bars of A Lash of Light. As a fan of the early days of the scene it’s great (and nostalgically refreshing!) to have a nod to Parker’s fellow synthwave OGs. A little sax goes a long way on this track too.
Electric Body, Electric Soul
Upbeat, almost disco in its delivery.. Electric Body, Electric Soul brings some funky slaps and a relentlessly strong baseline. Again, that Parker trademark sound is strong, but this dance-worthy track is a nice addition at the mid-point of the EP.
Mirage is a softer, more dreamy track to bring the second half of Club 707. The track then develops into this almost spiky, sci-fi adventure. Parker creates a good balance here to design a track that, whilst very much being made up of two different styles of music, flows well and sits comfortably in the track order.
What Never Was
The funny thing about What Never Was is how it broke my preconceptions of what it was going to be like.. Initially the track flows like the previous offerings and so the first 30 seconds are not that exciting, however Parker brings in the sax again and suddenly the mood lifts and i’m thrown into childhood memories of The Never Ending Story and Flight of the Navigator. Few in the scene have been able to invoke a visual memory in the same way. Probably my track of the album!
Parker’s new EP concludes in much the same way that it started. Strong base lines are layered with sharp and rich synths. It’s a flowing and confirmable end to what has been a welcomed and enjoyed album.
I’ve spoken openly many times of the development of the scene to where we find ourselves at the moment. Some of this commentary has been positive however I’ll also admit that some of this has been to openly suggest that the scene can find itself getting stale with the volume of mediocre releases that don’t do much to either complement or push the scene further. What Robert Parker has done this time around with Club 707 is remind us all that the masters of the craft are still here, still plugging away making the music they love and reminding this listener why I fell in love with the scene all those years ago. And to do that and keep the music sounding fresh in a saturated scene is not an easy task. Thank you Robert. Your consistency in your writing and your live performances are what keeps me coming back. Here’s to stealing another one of your beers in the near future!!
You can grab a digital copy of Club 707 here. For those of you who enjoy your physical releases, the album is also available on cassette via Playmaker Media (available in the previous link) and on record via Electronic Purification Records here.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.