Notes from the Keybed – This Month in Synths [October]

Keytar Cat Man. Because it’s Halloween.

We’ve already reviewed the new Minus The Bear b-sides and rarities collection elsewhere on TBO but here’s a timely reminder if you’ve yet to check out the frankly ace Lost Loves. Electronics man Alex Rose gets plenty of chance to showcase his usual mix of Pink Floydian atmospheres and synth hooks, with the ripping electro lead on ‘Surf-N-Turf’ and twinkling arpeggios of ‘Walk On Air’ being particular highlights.

Over the past few months we’ve consistently banged on about Emperor Yes, who first came to this column’s attention after a stunning set on the Alcopop! stage at Brighton’s Great Escape earlier this year. The psychedelic synth-poppers’ debut full-length An Island Called Earth is finally out and sounding expectedly fantastic. For the real nerds out there you can even pick it up on cosmic green vinyl infused with real meteorite dust! For the rest of us be sure to grab the download or CD and check out the synthesiser-led delights of ‘Wasps’, ‘It’s The End Of The World’, ‘Mirror’ and… well the whole album – it’s a beaut!

Scottish trio Chvrches have been busy with new music this month, not only announcing they’ll be contributing new track ‘Dead Air’ to the Hunger Games soundtrack, but also releasing single ‘Get Away’ as part of Zane Lowe’s re-scoring of Drive. Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t quite hit the heights of perfect debut album The Bones Of What We Believe, but it still has their trademark retro textures, analogue percussion and a tasty trancey lead. It’s a definite grower and one that you won’t be able to avoid if you listen to the radio at any point over the coming weeks! There’s also a fantastic cover of Bauhaus’ ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ scurrying around the Internet at present, which is perfect for your Halloween playlists!

Bloc Party mainman Kele Okereke has a new solo album out following 2010’s indie dancefloor slaying The Boxer. Trick is more straight-up dance music than anything he has done to date but the sublime songwriting and achingly cool vocals bring a much-needed uniqueness over his contemporaries. In many ways it is an indie-friendly gateway into the increasingly wanky world of commercial house music (thanks for making everything so borrrrring Disclosure) with hipster-friendly garage beats and late night soundscapes forming a gritty salute to London’s nightlife, whilst recalling lyrical themes from his day job’s masterpiece ‘A Weekend In The City’.

These New Puritans scared the shit out of me when I first heard ‘Orion’ among the usually safe surroundings of an NME cover disc. It was overwhelmingly bleak with droney keyboards, modern classical influences, and incessant drum rhythms outlining frontman Jack Barnett’s vocal monotones and lyrical intellectualisations. Earlier singles ‘Numbers’ and ‘Colours’ may have been more typical indietronica, but they always had a defiant stance to do things their own way and be impertinently different. Continuing to divide, confuse and amaze, they have certainly never been boring. Therefore, the release of new live album Expanded should come as no surprise, featuring a full 35 piece band of orchestral instruments and percussion, an array of synths and electronics and even ‘ultra bass singers’ (take that dubstep!). It’s certainly an interesting take on bringing electronic-infused music to the live arena, and it’s well worth watching the accompanying video online. Not one to listen to in the dark though!

October’s Keytar Hero award finds a home with Canadian queen of perky synth-pop, Lights. Her music may not be everyone’s cup of tea with its saccharine Disney-pop sheen (I shamelessly dig) but nobody can deny that she’s been loyal to the keytar as her long-term live performance companion ever since her early days of hanging out with the pop-punk kids at Warped. If you need any further convincing just type ‘keytar lesson with Lights’ into your YouTube search bar for hilariously awesome ‘advice’ from 2009 such as name your keytar so you take better care of it, understand the differences between keytar and regular keyboard, and make sure its plugged in. She even gives a demo of the Phil Collins mega hit ‘In The Air Tonight’ on solo keytar. She’s one of us…

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