Testament to the popularity of 80’s aesthetics and those dark digital futures that so many are fond of, the synth and retrowave movements just keep growing and growing. As with any scene, it doesn’t take long for a point of saturation to be reached, the music fast becoming formulaic and safe, which makes it all the more difficult to find something new and truly inspiring. With (viii) neuromantic: the communion of nature and technology, Neon Shudder offers 4 tracks of synthwave with enough nods to industrial, witchhouse and other genres to freshen proceedings a little. Unfortunately, the tunes themselves are not quite strong enough to raise Neon Shudder above the pack.
Cargo occult’ opens with a pulsing kick and crude stock snare and hi-hat. It’s reminiscent of witchhouse acts like Salem – somehow grim and melodic at once, like a sweet drink with a bitter aftertaste. It’s uncomfortably awkward – the melody is untrustworthy. Never leave it alone and never turn your back on it. I don’t know what, but something will happen, and it will most probably be bad.
Kill or be killed’ is industrial stomp working overtime to fulfill orders. The beat crackles and crashes with relentless aplomb. Keep your fingers away from the machinery and be sure to wear the provided safety goggles. Despite the blown-out approach in the drum programming, musically ‘kill or be killed’ is catchier, with a far poppier edge than its predecessor. That is until the mad scientist arrives, stabbing chords on a controller keyboard, the wires connecting to an interface of two-dozen disembodied heads that sing the notes from the digital speaker systems fitted in their hollow throats.
‘Not to be fucked with’ features fellow Pennsylvanian’s, Reapers, supplying vocals and additional programming. With an overtly poppy approach, it”s at odds with the previous tracks, the cheese factor amped with the inclusion of vocals. It’s reminiscent of the type of music your wannabe vampire goth mates used to listen to in the 90’s, or what you’d hear playing in ‘edgy’ and sparsely populated nightclubs in bad teen TV, where everyone has freshly painted fake tattoos and blue braided wooly dreadlocks. Whilst it might work on an EP of entirely vocal tracks, here it feels like it’s been shoehorned for the sake of inclusion.
For all its titular Nietzschean nods, ‘the tragedy of being’ isn’t quite as destructive and nihilistic as one might expect, a mournful pianoesque track with an unusual choice of kick-heavy backing. It’s reminiscent of live drumming and makes this writer question whether the composer has a background in metal or hardcore punk. Strangely, for all it’s quick kick glory, it works well, propelling an otherwise sombre track with a kind of regimented support structure that screams ‘don’t give up’.
On the whole, (viii) neuromantic: the communion of nature and technology, doesn’t feel cohesive, but more a mixture of oddments and leftovers. The tracks themselves are toe-tapping head-nodders, but still ultimately a little forgettable in a sea of other artists. Despite this, there are flashes of inspiration amongst these 4 sparsely populated tracks, and it’s enough to make Neon Shudder an act worth keeping tabs. We’ve been informed that Neon Shudder is currently working on a cyberpunk concept album, Cadence, which will feature 20 tracks, each with a corresponding story component. Fingers crossed, if the issues of consistent musical thematics and not-quite-up-there tuneage can be ironed out, we could be in for quite a treat.
(viii) neuromantic: the communion of nature and technology is available now on Bandcamp as a name your price digital download. You can get it here.