Notes from the Keybed – This Month in Synths: July 2014

Canadian dance-punkers Death From Above 1979 are back and sounding as vital as ever. It’s been ten years since the duo combined monumental fuzz rock riffs with danceable beats on 2004’s ‘You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine’, but their influence can still be heard in everyone from Bloc Party to DZ Deathrays. One of the biggest influences on my own music making I was beyond excited when the band announced that they would be touring and releasing new music this year. The result is ‘Trainwreck 1979’, taken from upcoming second album ‘The Physical World’, and it’s an absolute belter! Known for his huge bass tone that renders the need for a guitarist useless, it’s easy to forget that Jesse F Keeler also plays a mean synthesiser. His time making electro in MSTKRFT has clearly paid off as the new single is packed full of luscious string pads, twinkling arpeggios and a piano hook that lifts the chorus up. Matched by Sebastien Grainger’s trademark drawl and thundering drums it is clear that the two-piece are back to show the current crop how it’s done. The single is out now and the album is due in September.

A couple of months back we revealed how minds were blown by Emperor Yes at this year’s Great Escape in Brighton. It seems we weren’t the only ones wooed by the electro pop trio’s charms as the band have announced that they are now working with the fantastic Alcopop! Records to release their debut album later this year. First single ‘Paramesse to Tanis’ is a psychedelic tour-de-force of abstract lyrics about pulling mountains across Egypt accompanied by choppy synth chords, Phil Collins aping 80’s drum fills, and quirky sound effects. The vocoder backing vocals that dominated earlier releases have been replaced by floaty indie boy harmonies, but the change is welcomed by this listener at least as, contrary to popular belief, one can have too much robot voice. Definitely one to check out for fans of Friendly Fires and The Flaming Lips.

I want to end this month’s round up (don’t worry keytar fans, check the paragraph below) by introducing some of my favourite synth-based music from the local area. Michael D Wynn is a producer/musician from Worcester, who has been playing a variety of instruments in countless bands but is now focusing on electronic music. He was responsible for one of my favourite releases of this year back in January, combining contemporary pop hooks with analogue beats and Microkorg riffs ‘The Careerist / Pinks’ with Flossie-T on vocals is a must-hear. Check it out on Soundcloud and harass him to make more like this!

Another band from the Worcestershire area who have been making waves in the music scene are Shatter Effect. I first came across this group, who combine noughties indie rock with male/female vocal trades and catchy synth parts, a couple of years back and they’ve been going from strength to strength with each subsequent single release, always complemented with visually stunning videos. The band are currently in the studio recording new material and I’ve been constantly checking their social media for updates, as the results will undoubtedly be excellent.

Finally… Keytar Hero time! Here at TwoBeatsOff we like Boston (as in the city, not the soft rock band… okay, fine, both). it’s the home of hardcore troubadours Defeater as well as ace punk/emo label Run For Cover Records. Well, now we have another reason to love the Massachusetts capital as a Prince-loving anonymous man dressed as a bear has been spotted riffing out on a keytar, busking away whilst, in his own words, ‘killing racism’. Perfect. Keytar Bear, we may be 3000 miles away and we will probably never cross paths. But from behind a laptop in a middle-class haven of the Cotswolds, for services to keytardom and equality, we salute you.

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