Futures Are Changing, But Their Futures Are Still Black

The following account is of factual events that took place on the 27th October 2016, between the hours of 7 and 10pm. No details of this account have ever been made public. Until now.

I’m early. I’m not often early for a lot of things. In fact, I’m so early I have to wander up and down the street and take refuge in one of the cheapest London pubs I’ve ever set inside, waiting for to validate my invitation. But a little after 8pm, a gentleman sporting the Black Futures insignia arrives outside Wandsworth Town station, I weave the password into my conversation with him and he presents me with a blindfold, and told to await transport to the secret location. Of what I know of Black Futures media, their imagery resembles some kind of VHS propaganda reel, but nothing that was to resemble the theatricality of what was about to happen.

Once enough attendees had gathered, the chauffeur asked us to enter the transport and put on our blindfolds. In the brief journey towards the venue, around about 5-10 minutes in length, there was music playing under the guise of Black Futures Radio; short instrumental MIDI renditions of songs, interspersed between stingers and amusing interjections from its monotonous host. I seem to remember the best one about ‘having a funny feeling in my nether regions,’ or something similar at least. Little were we to know at that time, that what was unconsciously infiltrating our ear drums was a mere taster of the sonic assault to come. While the radio provided some light relief and entertainment, it didn’t stop the feeling of foreboding, being driven around on London streets, in a vehicle full of strangers, to a location you knew nothing about.

At the location, I just about made the shadow of gates opening before the path, and driving down to what looked like an abandoned film set of sorts. Outside, flanked by personnel in hazmat suits taking photographs of every attendee, heavies in suits instructed us to place our phones in envelopes or we would be refused entry. Happy to oblige, I did so without first telling my other half that I wouldn’t be able to be contacted for an unspecified amount of time. You can imagine how that went, especially after telling her the last thing that happened was that I was just given a blindfold. Anyway, we were directed left into a room, filled with more hazmat personnel and two giant dispensers filled with ‘social lubricants’. The drinks could only be dispensed by ringing a bell, or honking a horn, dependent on which you wanted. The folk in the suits and googles remained silent throughout, pulling glasses from underneath which they kindly filled and only once pouring half a litre of gin, to top up the more popular of the two dispensers. Yikes. The room itself had little in the way of furnishings with two sofas, in a room filled about thirty odd people, but was filled with very curious paintings, photographs and instruments around. It seemed elaborate, like a lot of thought had been put into the decoration of this venue, deliberately like some kind of scientific experiment and we were the test subjects.

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After a period of time for guests to mingle with one another, the room opposite in the hallway is unlocked, and we are welcomed inside a studio, outputting a frequency that feels like its properties could brainwash onlookers if exposed to in the right circumstances. Maybe that was the idea. But beyond the mixing desk and monitors, lay drums, microphones, a keyboard and a guitar, and a curious wall in the background which had a screen display inside what resembled a large sewage pipe opening. The door is then closed, the frequency is shut off and with the onlookers and myself all making ourselves as comfortable as possible, the producers known only to the world as SPACE and VIBES slowly emerge from the darkness and start the show.

With their first song, distorted, crunchy guitar opening up proceedings and thunderous booms of bass, before erupting into an apocalyptic big-beat bombshell that would bring a tear to Liam Howlett’s eye. The scathing refrain of ‘ten minutes to the end of the world,’ is unnervingly relevant, given the earth-shattering size of the music that surrounds it, and the visual element of strobe lighting in the performance really enforced the urgency and magnitude of their two-pronged attack. After three and a half minutes of electrifying energy, the storm subsides and you could be mistaken for thinking for more of the same is on the way. But this is where things begin to change, instead revealing a whole new dimension of influences that made for a truly mesmerising listen. Straight into now brand new single Karma Ya Dig!?, waves of reverb and delay wash over both sets of vocals and synths, unveiling a strangely soothing psychedelic ambience that certainly caught me by surprise. These two gentlemen’s vocals also harmonise so well together, that the phrase ‘I’ll see you on the other side,’ has lingered ever-presently in my subconscious since this day. A pseudo-industrial stomp gets us underway with a near punk-like sneer taking vocal duties, marching us towards a titanic guitar riff that wouldn’t go amiss in Britpop’s heyday and an overall vibe that feels reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers, albeit slowed to a pace you can headbang to. It certainly affirms that the big beat era of dance music circa 1990 onwards, has had a profound effect on this material. As if today’s electronic music producers and a punk band recorded together in a garage. It’s gritty, intense and energetic but without sounding lo-fi or unpolished. Astronomically far from it.

I must admit, that while their eight song set was nothing short of inspiring, it moved in a blur. I recall one track that had a dancehall style beat, some later present indie rock style influences and one track that which reminded me firmly of Does It Offend You, Yeah?, which in their own whirlwind of genre-smashing, is nothing but a compliment. They are an absolute sum of the parts of the people that work as the unit. SPACE, an in-demand punk and hardcore producer, with a reputation in the desert rock community to boot, and VIBES, a multi-talented instrumentalist and electronic music producer, that works with an abundance of live acts in and around London. Their union has formed something undeniably unique, and witnessing the translation of their chemistry together in the flesh with such a striking and impactful live performance, and the interactivity before the performance even took place, has made me fall in love with these gentlemen and get overexcited over what was to come. It truly was a privilege to be invited along and be part of this undoubtedly intriguing and involving movement.

The opportunity to see it for yourselves, lies on the 5th October at Bloc in Hackney, 8:30pm start. Prepare for an immersive dance experience unlike any you’ve ever encountered. If you want a further testimonial, I left that night with new friends, whom I realised I shared a closer connection to, than just being attendees to this exclusive performance. And I’m often a painfully awkward individual. If that isn’t something that asserts the power or the spiritual significance of the Black Futures experience, then I don’t know what will.

Join the Existential Expedition Club right here:

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The Soundshark’s Top 10 Favourite Live Performances of 2016

So this is a first for the site, as somebody sworn to never do live concert reviews, a run-down of ten stand out live acts that I’ve seen over the course of 2016. And I’ve seen a lot of them. It’s pretty self-explanatory really, only I’m not exactly reviewing them, just highlighting why they made this list. This isn’t limited to headline acts by the way. The only exception that I have made is to try and limit festival appearances, as there were numerous bands seen in the space of a day at some festivals that could’ve made up lists of their own. And I have had to discount one entry that should be on this list, that of being The Offspring and Bad Religion at Hammersmith Apollo. The reason being counting individual performances, both were absolutely superb on the night, more than satisfying the inner 13 year-old in me and being hard torn to pick a favourite, just makes it easier to disallow it altogether. Sorry, no joint entries for this one. Without any further ado, here’s who played stellar live shows in 2016:

10. Raveyards @ Camden Underworld (supporting Perturbator w/ Dan Terminus) – 08/06/16

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Credit: Eva Vlonk Photography

Bands like Raveyards perfectly demonstrate why you should always try and check out the support bands for a live show. Knowing nothing of them, walking into Underworld with half of the stage consumed by mesh netting, projection screens and one of the most elaborate live musical setups I’ve ever seen was an eyebrow-raiser. Every component of an electronic music performance was in their control and performed in real time, with their expansive shadowy atmospherics and gigantic beats, matched with a kaleidoscope of visuals made for a spell-binding spectacle. Spectators seemed happy to have the space back afterwards, but Raveyards’ attention to detail alone has to garner recognition.

http://www.facebook.com/raveyards
http://www.twitter.com/raveyards
http://www.soundcloud.com/raveyards

9. Allusondrugs @ The Black Heart, Camden (w/ Fizzy Blood, This Years Ghost and Snakes) – 03/08/16

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Always a band on the cusp of greatness, the Yorkshire grunge revivalists played a packed Black Heart and showed everybody why they are one of the most talked about live acts going in the UK right now. Switching between slower psychedelic pinches and frenzied fuzz slammers, all delivered with their inescapable talent for writing infectious hooks, I went into this show, having had some personal bad news that day and left with joy and an affirmation of life once more afterwards. They near had to be dragged off stage after a storming 45 minute performance, but such is their allure and brilliance of their music.

http://www.facebook.com/allusondrugs
http://www.twitter.com/allusondrugs
http://www.allusondrugs.com/

8. Youth Code @ Electrowerkz, Islington (w/ Shallow Sanction and Evestus) – 14/10/16

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Credit: Nick Fancher Photography

If there ever was a band that embodied controlled chaos, then Youth Code is that band. Marking their debut in the capital city with their revisionist approach to industrial and EBM, there is no wasted movement from beginning to end of their set, both Sara and Ryan screaming and launching themselves across the stage in a frenetic display. Despite a breadth of luscious synth arpeggios and skull-rattling drum machines, it’s their sprinkle of hardcore, that makes every word screamed at you personal and elevates Youth Code’s all-out sensory assault to an absorbing war dance you never want to end. Can you say: the next Ministry?

http://www.facebook.com/youthcodeforever
http://www.twitter.com/youth_code
youthcode.bandcamp.com

7. Jean-Michel Jarre @ The O2 Arena, London – 07/10/16

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It kinda goes without saying, that when you go to see a concert from somebody widely regarded as the Godfather of Electronic Music, as a pioneer whose forays into music and technology span 40 years and a former world record holder for the largest outdoor concert ever, you’re in for a spectacle. And having missed the chance six years previously to see him, he did not disappoint. Ever the showman, touring through his greatest hits and his frankly superb Electronica project, his inspiring ability to flawlessly recreate every nuance of his work, live, to a visual extravaganza that evolves much like his compositions can only cement his legacy as one of the most influential figures in modern music.

http://www.facebook.com/jeanmicheljarre
http://www.twitter.com/jeanmicheljarre
http://www.jeanmicheljarre.com

6. Petrol Bastard @ Resistanz Festival (Corporation, Sheffield) – 25/03/16

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I do wonder how many people have said at a Petrol Bastard show, that the duo played their dream set list. I certainly can. Opening up Resistanz Festival in Sheffield’s Corporation was a 45 minute performance piece about masturbation, drinking and violence set to an unrelenting techno, gabba and drum and bass soundtrack… and it was some of the most fun I’d had all year. Forcing crowd participation with a tide of inflatable penises and unforgettable slogans, and with a little help from Johnny Ultraviolence, this crude, colourful riot was impossible to ignore and left many smiling from ear to ear. Plus how many gigs let your girlfriend try to sexually assault one of the band members with an inflatable penis?

http://www.facebook.com/petrolbastard
petrolbastard.bandcamp.com

5. Monster Zoku Onsomb @ Boomtown Fair, Winchester – 12/08/16

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Out of the inconceivable number of bands and pass times at Boomtown Fair, these guys could’ve been easy to miss on one of the smallest stages around. But once in range, you couldn’t escape from them and those onlookers in attendance never wanted this madness to end. A troupe of Australian musicians specialising in belting rave tunes, spanning a whirlwind of tempos, spliced together with B-movie references galore and occasional 60’s surf guitar, happily run amok in their 45 minutes on stage. Choreographed dance routines, inviting an adult baby on stage and what may have been a declaration about being in Eurovision 2017 only added to their unique brand of electronic dance carnage.

http://www.facebook.com/mzofanpage
monsterzokuonsomb.bandcamp.com
http://www.monsterzoku.com

4. Toska @ The Boileroom, Guildford (EP Launch Show w/ Eschar, The Deadlights and Steal Rockets) – 27/02/16

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Possibly the only headline band I have ever seen without knowing a single thing about, was also one of the most astounding. Made up of three quarters of melodic hard rock starlets Dorje, Toska sacrifice none of that intensity and churn out wave after wave of instrumental metal bliss, hurled at such force you’d think there was an earthquake. The energy they emitted could’ve powered large city blocks and their respective talents are hypnotizing to observe; simply everything about their performance was immense in stature, given their debut recorded release. They made crafting invigorating, progressive music seem so effortless and it was an absolute pleasure to watch them at work.

http://www.facebook.com/officialtoska
officialtoska.bandcamp.com

3. Lionize @ Desertfest London (Camden Underworld) – 29/04/16

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In what is somewhat a recurring theme on this list, I went to watch Lionize, only knowing that they were Clutch’s in-house band and left absolutely speechless. Imagine if James Brown had fronted a balls-to-the-wall rock band and invited Bob Marley along as a touring member and that merely scratches the surface of what these gentlemen can do on stage. Ferociously charismatic and passionate beyond all belief, Lionize toured a myriad of genres and had tremendous fun doing it, all with every attendee transfixed at this true powerhouse of a performance. I’m surprised the Underworld didn’t burst having to contend with holding these guys back, one of the most impressive modern rock bands alive today.

http://www.facebook.com/LIONIZEMUSIC
http://www.twitter.com/LionizeMusic
http://www.soundcloud.com/lionizemusic
http://www.lionizemusic.com

2. Kowloon Walled City @ Camden Underworld (co-headliners w/ Minsk, also w/ Bossk and Wren) – 03/09/16

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Credit: Maria Louceiro

Credit where credit is due, Bossk were also spectacular on this night, but for a band that had never stepped foot in the UK before and had come to the end of a near two-month tour of Europe, emotions were always going to be high for these guys. Kowloon Walled City’s use of conveying so much intensity and feeling into their tone, while being pulverising in the same capacity, makes every note gripping to behold and very, very few bands can even touch them in making sludge sound so breathtaking. Spanning seven songs across 45 minutes, this set made a titanic statement as why Kowloon Walled City could be considered one of the best bands on the planet.

http://www.facebook.com/kowloonwalledcity
http://www.twitter.com/kowloonwalled
kowloonwalledcity.bandcamp.com
http://www.inthewalledcity.com

1. Placebo @ Wembley Arena, London (w/ Minor Victories) – 15/12/16

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What more can be said about Placebo? Never has a band resonated with me emotionally and spiritually as Placebo has and likely I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. Hell, I wouldn’t have a degree for starters. But there could be no more fitting show for them to play in their hometown on the 20th year of their inception. The atmosphere was electric and applause rapturous as the band strode through a terrific career-spanning set, that touched many through melancholy but lifted everyone through liveliness. Lyrically they have few peers and musically, their grunge-embezzled attack sounds as fresh as it did in June of 1996. Arguably, one of the UK’s greatest cultural phenomenons.

http://www.facebook.com/officialplacebo
http://www.twitter.com/placeboworld
http://www.placeboworld.co.uk

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The Soundshark Artist of the Year 2016 – Mr.Kitty

While this is the very first of the end of year posts for this site and officially the first time anything like this has been on the site before, it gives me great pleasure and happiness to write a piece, giving a greater emphasis on an artist that has been a constant for me this year. Limitations bore me and if locking a piece like this solely to any artist’s accomplishments in one year, it doesn’t grant the necessary freedom to write something engaging enough. For me anyway. So take this as a love letter to the one artist or group of artists whose music I have cherished through thick and thin this year, and I would like to dedicate this year’s piece to self-proclaimed ‘suicidal synth-pop’ artist Forrest Avery LeMaire a.k.a. Mr.Kitty.

If you want to talk about 2016 for Mr.Kitty, then it hasn’t been as active as past years. Despite playing numerous shows over in the States, we were expecting what was to be Mr.Kitty’s sixth album in as many years to be released in October, making him certifiably in the conversation as one of synth-pop’s hardest working artists around. Sadly but understandably, the album was put on hold until next year as health concerns became a priority into the latter half of the year. But that does not speak for the quality of the music that Mr.Kitty has produced over his six-year plus lifespan as a recording artist. Far from it.

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Credit: Doug Schwarz Photography

Channeling the mechanical heart of classic 80’s electronica and the drum machines of the great original goth movement, into chilling dreamscapes and darkened dancefloors, narrated by the oft distorted and reverb-drenched lullabies and shrieks of Forrest; the output of Mr.Kitty is an emotional outpouring of a vulnerable soul against an array of unforgettable analogue synth dialects. His first four albums form part of a quadrilogy of works known as the Dark Youth collection, spanning both light and darkness which broadcasts and touches upon many subject matters in that time frame, moving and macabre. It also serves as the perfect window or measuring post to show how much Mr.Kitty has grown and matured as an artist. But every release is its own separate universe, with its own atmosphere and a complete anthology of melodic masterpieces.

Arguably the greatest of his works is Dark Youth’s final installment Time, which although is one of the darker albums of that collection, is uncompromising in its vision, truly emanating the rawest feelings of every song, no matter how black its subject matter. How so many of these songs contain the musings of a mind much darker than you can imagine, but are entangled in some of the most memorable synth-pop written this decade is a true wonder and testament to Mr.Kitty’s abilities as a songwriter, let alone a fascinating juxtaposition. Although we have had snippets of a new album this year, how Forrest has tirelessly spun such outstanding retro-contemporary electronic webs together year after year is commendable. Each one is more enchanting and enrapturing than the next, and I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that everything that Mr.Kitty has created is consistently among the best music I have heard all year.

So if Mr.Kitty does get to read this, thank you for your music, and a Happy New Year, with love and kind regards,

The Soundshark xox

Five Essential Mr.Kitty tracks:





The vast majority of everything Mr.Kitty has ever produced can be found on his Bandcamp page, and if it can’t be found there, then it can be found on his Soundcloud page instead. Though unconfirmed, a 2017 release window is pencilled in for A.I., to be Mr.Kitty’s next album of which this site will take great interest in. You can shop here if you are in need of any t-shirts or the likes in the near future.

And finally, you can find all news and the means to give him a virtual hug right here:

http://www.facebook.com/mrkittydm
http://www.twitter.com/mrkittydm

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The Soundshark’s Top 20 Songs of 2015

Something somebody said recently struck me as it made an awful lot of sense. Exactly when do you stop saying, ‘Happy New Year,’ to one another? Or at least when does it become acceptable at the least. I honestly don’t know, but for now, I’m still considering it an appropriate time to talk about my favourite songs of last year. Seeming I’ve made a habit of it, and I finally have time to sit down and write about them.

2015 was a challenging year as it more or less marked my transition from degree student to having to fend for myself. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it didn’t. But something that I didn’t previously have was a companion, somebody that I hold very dear to me and somebody I look forward to what the future holds for the both of us. As such, she has had an impact on deciding this list, just as much as the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the past year has. Like I’ve said before, I do these lists for biographical reasons, to show where I’ve been and what’s happened in years gone by. Music and memory are powerful things.

So my rules for the list are as follows: I don’t always pick songs from this year to put on the list, it involves literally anything I’ve listened to in the past year that I’ve enjoyed frequently enough (that said, there are a lot of 2015 entries on this list which makes a change), but I try to avoid putting more than one song by the same artist in. Some of my past lists had more than one or two. You can find them on Spotify if you want to.

I would like to make an honourable mentions list, but there were far too many to include on this year’s list, so I’ll skip that formality this time. Just so many good moments or songs to include the entire list. And if you would like to listen to this list uninterrupted, commentary-free, then head on over to the Spotify playlist instead.

Righty then, on with the show…

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Kris Keyser

In how I’ve ended up writing this blog post, this has been a real different experience in terms of anything I write about. Probably about as vague as a sentence as I’ve ever put to document on my site, but hear me out. I mean this in two senses. The first is my working environment at the time of writing. Something that has blossomed and grown significantly mainly from the confines of my own bedroom, has been bought back to its very humble beginnings at my university’s library. Origins colliding with the future if it were. Leading to the second sense I’m talking about: culture clash. My main passions in life revolve entirely around music and video games and the fusion of the two resulted in the birth of chiptune, a genre of which I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve invested very little time in, since its inception in what seems like a lifetime ago. College honestly feels like it was that long ago to me. A lot has changed in that time. So like a proverbial mole, I’m burying deeper into the mass of soundcard-generated marvels ripped from the arcades of 1985. One of the stand out maestros on my traversal is New York’s Kris Keyser, a gentleman whom when not composing rousing 8-bit symphonies of destruction, has his digits on electronic festivals, software and unsurprisingly soundtracks. The thing that strikes me most about his music is just how endlessly energetic it is, a sugar rush of chirps and bleeps all pieced together in a revolving corridor of vibrant tints and hues. The best example of this that lurches forth from Keyser’s 2013 self-titled EP, his most recent output committed to digital distribution is Batsly Labs. While giving an honourable nod to Only, a soundscape invoking a giant mechanoid’s final stand against the oncoming onslaught of missiles aimed at the Earth, it’s the happy-go-lucky retro rampage of what can be described as Godzilla taking a leisurely stroll through a densely populated city, that implants its colourful melodies most memorably. You start with low-pitched bloops and warm pitch-bends of single notes, building up the tension much like opening credits of a side-scrolling fistfight, before you drop your change into the coin-op slot and childhood innocence all comes flooding back, punctuated by a pulsing bass drum and bright computerised chirps. Quite the wall of distortion is interwoven between the lovingly recreated melody, emphasising that inner degree of fury that compliments the cheerful demeanour so well, as a result of corrupted audio or carefully engineered detail I’m not entirely sure. But the experience is paced just as well as any arcade narrative has ever been. As any enjoyable but brief romp, the journey translates through different landscapes and climates, changing tempo to match that progression to the next stage, all leading to that satisfying ending and calmly winding down to the credits. The real childlike delight of revisiting the past to bring music into the present day, especially how I resonate with video games making up a huge portion of my childhood to bring pleasure to my aural channels as I write this, is a truly underrated art form, and one that feels like I’ve really under-appreciated. Kris Keyser sits as a shining jewel amongst a treasure chest of sterling producers making a charming collection of tunes, harking back to that time of purity and artistic integrity in your craft.

Anything that Kris Keyser has ever created can be located on his Bandcamp page on a pay-whatever-you-feel basis, though I do heartily encourage a small fee for his work definitely. Otherwise, his music can be purchased from most respectable music retailers. Else wise, anything and everything you could want to know about the guy can be found on his personal website.

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https://twitter.com/kris_keyser

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Ambra Red

To follow on from a point made in a previous post on this blog, although there are parts of the industry that are highly successful for women, there are some still in which women still struggle in, or there is a real lack of a presence in. Formerly I talked about rock and metal, now I’m talking about electronic music producers. There are some that have made substantial contributions to electronic music a la Ladytron’s Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo or Freezpop’s Liz Enthusiasm and Marie ‘Christmas DIsco’ Sagan, that’s an indisputable fact. But I’m more referring to solo ventures, fearless females that near single-handedly produce all the content they make. Bjork is a famous example, as is Sister Bliss of Faithless fame, but they seem very far few and between prominence. I already have given notice to organic ambient maestro Hannah Davidson a.k.a. Mrs Jynx from Manchester previously on this blog, but it’s high time I gave plaudits to another. Enter Ambra Red from Sweden. It’s no secret that the European synth-pop scene is one of the strongest in the world, and despite disappearing off of the face of the earth, her collection of singles she produced in the period of time she was active is near an immaculate quality. Purposing producing lavish melodies like an arrow to the heart of popular music, while one foot strays into dancefloor territory and her tongue a sharp enough implement to slash at contemporary culture. Her career lasted an undisclosed amount of time, according to the shreds of evidence surrounding her on the internet, but long enough a timespan to produce 20 songs to be compiled onto what seems to be her only studio album, Electronic Creations For Special People. Many of her songs are impeccably written in the manner of synth-pop’s greatest, and Beauty 606 is personally one of the best the album has to offer. The twist of a radio dial into a punchy disco beat with a low-riding bass line starts the show, with Ambra’s hushed but sensual tones digging at perceived model beauty standards. Her calm, near reaching siren-esque demeanour makes her criticisms even more effective against the vibrant, cheery synths and layers upon layers of intricate percussion driving the track along. Special attention has to be given to the chorus’ inescapable hook line, as it’s one that burrows hard into your brain. Once its there. you’ll have a difficult time being rid of it as you’ll be whistling the melody for a good few days. As I said, an unsung hero of the modern synth-pop scene, with such carefully constructed, clean-sounding production and a midas touch for writing excellent pop songs that not only could seduce the dancefloor republic, but could nestle into any of the playbooks of the best to grace the mainstream with fingers on keyboards.

Having disappeared into the nether for around five years now, social media for her are hard to trace, but she still has a website up with links to where you can listen to and buy her works. So I’d highly recommend using that as your port of call, only because Amazon sold physical copies of her album beyond ridiculously prices.

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