So, uh, yeah… remember that little quip in my year-end metal wrap-up about Carpenter Brut and Dance with the Dead? About how the Retrocution column would need to still exist for me to feature their terrific 2022 output in it? LOL AMIRITE? Well, buddy*, I’ve got some news for you…
*I used the singular here because as with most things I write, I tend to assume that only one person will actually read this
Retrocution is, I guess, back? And what better way to reintegrate our long lost column into society than with an absolute banger of a collaboration from Betamaxx and FM Attack? Dive on in and check it out!
Over the last decade-plus, Betamaxx and FM Attack have established themselves as absolute heavyweights of the genre. If you know synthwave, chances are you’ve known both for years. If you don’t… well, buckle up!
Pittsburgh-based Nick Morey began releasing music as Betamaxx in 2012, channeling a love of retro synthesizers into much-loved albums like Plug and Play and Archaic Science, and earning featured spots on the soundtracks of Kung Fury, Red Oaks and more. But his last full-length release — 2021’s Sarajevo — saw Morey exploring a different style: an ambient, instrumental offering inspired by and paying tribute to the 1984 Winter Olympic games.
FM Attack — the stage name of Vancouver native Shawn Ward — has just about all you can do in synthwave: terrific albums (including one we featured in this very column!), shout-outs from Ryan Gosling… the guy even runs his own label, Starfield Music. From 2009’s Dreamatic up through his ostensible “retirement” after 2021’s The Never Ending, Ward built the kind of discography most artists could only dream of — and he continues to do so to this day through remixes, collaborations with label-mates Vandal Moon, and more.
Though Morey and Ward have been remixing each other’s work for years, “Cosmic Voyage” marks the first time they’ve collaborated on an original track together. Released at the beginning of the month, the song celebrates its producers’ mutual love of Italo disco, a prominent style of club music originating in Italy in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It’s a deeply catchy affair with a persistent, four-to-the-floor rhythm and a characteristically bouncy bass line. While both producers have done their share of experimentation with sounds and song structures over the years, this collaboration is as straightforward an arrangement as it gets — and that ends up being to its credit.
“Cosmic Voyage” works so well because it successfully melds two competing schools of synthwave thought. In one corner, it builds an expansive, spacey feel — Get it? Cosmic? — through the layers of echo and reverb added to its lead lines. But on the other, the song’s steady, understated rhythm gives off the feel of a vintage dance club and keeps things grounded. Ultimately, it’s just an intriguing listen from two good friends and masters of their craft, just having fun together.
“Cosmic Voyage” is available now through both artists‘ Bandcamp pages. For more information on Betamaxx, visit his Twitter page. For more information on FM Attack, visit his Facebook page.
More January synth highlights:
- Prolific Irish retro master Bart Graft returned with his first full-length in… more than a year? Wait, really? For a guy with [checks notes] …38 releases in the six-and-a-half years or so before that? Wow. Anyway! The fittingly-titled A Sign of Life is available here.
- Hey, another Retrocution favorite came back with new material in January! Hot off the heels of his four EP releases in 2022 — three of which featured in our Best of 2022 NOT-Metal roundup — Brighton, UK producer OSC returned with The Alpine Suite, a more expansive, largely ambient affair. It’s available here.
- San Jose-based Vector Hold dropped his new EP, Maui, at the end of January. It’s a lighter, more contemporary-sounding set of tunes inspired by his first-ever trip to Hawaii. Check it out here.
- Changing gears sonically from, uh… just about all of the other stuff in this post… Edinburgh producer LukHash returned with the new single “Robot Uprising” earlier this month. It’s as dark and abrasive as you’d expect a song titled “Robot Uprising” to be. You can (and should) give it a listen here.
And that’ll do it for this edition! Tune in this time next month for more retro-flavored goodness. Until then…
Keep it synthy,