SSQ - Synthicide (1984)

Album: SSQ - Playback
Song: Synthicide

Wow... This video is raucously entertaining and is delightfully oozing with over the top 80s antics. Probably one of the better 80s videos I've seen in a while. I can't believe I am still finding random gems from the 80s with only a small amount of research. Regardless, this track will be with me for a long time now.

This track has pretty much everything that gets me stoked on 80s music. An overload of synth leads. Absolutely perfect staccato synth bass. A completely rowdy drummer slamming away on on digital Simmons drums (the hexagon ones) while wearing a full Simmon's jumpsuit, haha. A lead vocalist who is genuinely killing it, in terms of physical and vocal performance. Everything is just super entertaining to watch, especially knowing that this video is 30 years old.

Lastly, and most strangely, the entire vocal track is bathed in reverse reverb. This is a technique I have NEVER heard used this prominently in a dance track like this, or any track off the top of my head. It is more often used for effect when mythical figures are speaking in movies. Totally works though, and gives this song an extremely unusual and distant vibe, which uniquely juxtaposes the in your face energy of the performances.

Have YOU had YOUR digital fix today?

Billy Ocean - Another Day Won't Matter (1981)

Album: Billy Ocean - Nights, Feel Like Getting Down (1981)
Song: Another Day Won't Matter

I had heard the song Caribbean Queen a few times through out my life, but never as an adult. It came on TV one day and I had to stop and make sure I looked at who the artist was. As I usually do, I was extremely curious to hear WHAT ELSE that artist had done. Artists usually saved very predictable songs for their radio singles, and leave the tracks I tend to enjoy most as just other sings on the album. I blew through a lot of Billy Ocean's 80s albums and was delighted to hear banger after banger that really put Caribbean Queen far in to the background. I think the most prominent of the "deep cuts" in his discography was this track.

Right from that opening drum fill, I could tell this track and I were going to get along famously. I am an absolute sucker for ultra tight, funk drumming. When the snares have that juicy snap\pop to them, and the hi-hats are just sizzling up and down dictating the precise tempo and groove. The bass is also accenting the rhythm just right, and gives just enough incentive for you to shimmy your body side to side while you are tapping your head.

Then you have Billy Ocean's vocals. My first impression of them when I first heard this song was that they are a little nasally. But he more than makes up for it by having a truly genuine and even somewhat fragile energy to his performance. His delivery and pronunciation is absolutely infectious and very unique which ultimately can not be denied. This track never fails to make me happy.

Deep cuts for life!

Locanda Delle Fate - A Volte Un Instante Di Quiete (1977)

Album: Locanda Delle Fate - Forse le lucciole non si amano più (1977)
Song: A Volte Un Instante Di Quiete

Edit: *Track 1 from this video* One of the most deterring things about Italian Progressive Rock is not that it is too technical or "progressive". The most deterring thing is that there is simply too much of it, and the level of musicality is shockingly high.

I got it in my head quite a while ago that rather than be deterred, I would simply start to isolate and take note of individual songs that stood out. Rather than single bands, or even single albums, I wanted to document any song that moved me, and began to listen to everything I possibly could, from old music, to foreign music, as sort of a personal quest to better understand what I like about music in general.

One of the earliest songs that set me on this path was this track here. It still seems crazy to me that a group of musicians could write a piece this complex that could remain melodically energetic across every dynamic they present. Then end up doing it all with live instruments using no help from midi or computers. It was perhaps the very last era of human analog performance, and the peak of what could be accomplished before the aid of technology became a standard. I think that mentality almost matches perfectly with the idea of many Italian Progressive Rock groups. There was simply this cultural build up of song writing concepts, and at the time, you either had to be a wizard on your instrument, or a fantastic song writer to be doing this stuff at a high level.

There is something to be said about anyone being able to create now, which allows for much greater cultural expression in general. But at the time, for artists like Locana Delle Fate, music was about achieving the highest level of performance and expression. It's a rarer and rarer thing to behold in this day and age, for better or worse. I can't perform anywhere near at this level, so I am completely dependent on technology to write music, for example.

Ultimately, when you pluck this song out of time, you simply have to marvel at how active the melodies are, for all instruments. I really don't want to over sell this song, but it might be too late. One thing I can suggest though, is try to listen to just a single instrument at a time, and notice how confidently each player is playing, and how none of them are fighting any other instrument. Everything works towards the same goal, and at unbelievably high performance and quality. For a band of players to be playing a song this complex, this smoothly, with this many instruments, is kind of remarkable.

It's a gem of gems in my opinion. Perhaps it will spark some of you to embark on a quest to document every song that moves you, as well.

Pan - Bana Bana (1989)

Single: Pan - Bana Bana (1989)
Album: Eurovision Song Contest 1989 - Turkey Entry
Song: Bana Bana

I struggled with whether to post the recorded version of this song from the single, or post the live performance of it from the Eurovision contest in 1989. While I love this song on it's own, I think the live performance really does offer some additional context and entertainment.

For those who don't know, Eurovision is a yearly contest held in Europe where every country sends a band or artist. Some kind of vote happens, and a winner is declared. I've never actually watched one, but they are still held today. Sadly in 1989 Bana Bana won second to last place. In a contest that is for embarrassing ballads and really soulless pop, this track stood out is the best possible way. Kind of like Marty McFly playing that solo at the end of Johnny B Goode.

This track on it's own is already exceptionally fast. It's clipping by at a BPM that is way to fast to dance to. With many tight and intricate melodies popping up then blinking gone in an instant. To my ears it runs at a pace similar to metal or even NES music. And, like those two genres, everything about the song is surgical, punchy and insanely melodic. From the vocal melodies and dual harmonies, to the drum fills and riffs in the wind and horn sections, this song is just screaming past. The vocals of the two females singing on these Turkish eastern scales haunt me to this day. The song title "Bana Bana" translates to "To me to me", and appears to be about couples having some troubles. These melodies hammer it home.

Ultimately, I decided on posting the live video because of the energy. Compared to the track on the record, this is at least 5 bpm faster. And you can see at the start, the composer (and writer) of the song Timur Selçuk going absolutely mental as the conductor in front of the orchestra. He must have really been feeling the energy, because he ramped the whole band into a frenzied pace where you can audibly hear them speeding up. So fast that the more intricate wind sections almost blur together rather than have this tight surgical feel like on the record. I actually really like that about this version. It's balls out, with nothing held back. And for the most part, exceptionally well executed all things considered. I get the impression that the message behind the song was important to the conductor Timur Selçuk.

Lastly, I love the announcer at the start: " Now just keep an eye... *gets cut off as song starts to play and the conductor goes crazy* Here goes the boy, Timur Selçuk!"

Here goes the boy!

Prefab Sprouts - Cue Fanfare (1984)

Album: Prefab Sprouts - Swoon (1984)
Song: Cue Fanfare

This was a recent track I stumbled on to while looking for music in the genre of "sophisti-pop". I once saw Mr Mister and their singer Richard Page listed under this genre, and while it seemed made up and unnecessary, I figured it would probably still direct me to some good stuff. I mean, anyone who likes Mr Mister is already half way there.

Anyway, as soon as the bass starts to dive into the main riff of this song, you immediately think it's much much newer song than it is. There is an almost modern feel to this band. The riffs are so far ahead of their time in execution that it sounds like people in modern day who are deliberately trying to sound retro. Seeing as how this is actually a 30 year old track, you have to marvel and wonder at just how they arrived at this particular sound.

This track is ultra playful, some what enigmatic\progressive, but also absurdly groovy. The bass player is losing his mind with riff after riff, one embellishment after the other. The drums are very simple, but very confident sounding and not afraid to get a little spastic (matching the bass player's wandering intensity).

However, one of the most noteworthy features of this track is the very uncommon song structure. Verses seem to be split in half unexpectedly, and are always emphasized with lyrical hooks that don't make a lot of sense. But they sound cool, if that makes sense. It's almost like an art form of speech or something. It's hard to explain. Wrap it all up, and you've got a very memorable 30 year old track that sounds like it is a 3 year old track minus all the modern pretentiousness.

Scary Thieves - Halloween (1984)

Album: Scary Thieves - Scary Thieves (1984 - Unreleased)
Song: Halloween

Scary Thieves were a mid 80s band that had the perfect sound. In their one album, there are probably 5 or so songs that could have easily been radio singles and house hold words at the time. The only problem was, THE ALBUM NEVER GOT RELEASED. 

The album is a wash in British 80s synthpop vocals, drums and keys. Everything comes together in such a polished and impressive way that it compounds the confusion as to why this album was shelved. The speculation is that the singer of the band had a "complex" relationship with the record company executive's girl friend. That story is actually pretty believable to me, because this singer was probably pretty sure the band was going to be huge. Perhaps it went to his head? 

Anyway, this is not my favourite song off the album, but in honour of Halloween coming up, here's a tasty, ultra obscure 80s track to play at your Halloween parties

Edit: The video I upload was taken down from YouTube, which is strange sicne the album is already too obscure for it's own good. I guess they REALLY didn't want people to hear this thing. Regardless, here's another way to hear the song:


Pat Metheny - Oasis (1977)

Album: Pat Metheny - Water Colors (1977)
Song: Oasis

Pat Metheny is one of the least conventional, but immensely talented guitar players I have ever heard. This track is from his 1977 album Watercolors.

Unconventionally, this track appears to utilize the guitar as if it were a wind chime being gently rocked back and forth in the wind. He uses a mix of a standard 12 string acoustic guitar combined with a 15-string Harpguitar. I am fairly certain he is also using a unique tuning. To accompany this cascade of soft 'wind-chiming' guitar notes is a heavily chorused and and super smooth fretless bass playing on higher register notes. The bass player must be using the volume knob on the bass to create ultra expressive fade ins and outs to every note. Almost like the wind, or a human voice drifting past the microphone.

Needless to say, this has been my favourite Metheny track since I first heard it. The tone and the mood in this track are unparallelled. If you close your eyes and put headphones on, this track will take you places. 

Pat Metheny is mostly known as a jazz guitar player, but even by those terms he is exceptionally enigmatic. This is perhaps one of the finest examples of Pat Metheny's unconventional approach to song writing for guitar. 

For 1977 too, hot damn!

Ain Soph - The Swan Lake (1986)

Album: Ain Soph - Hat and Field (1986) 
Song: The Swan Lake

Ain Soph is an instrumental Japanese Prog\Jazz band that is either a heavily copy right enforced band, or a genuinely obscure band. Either way, it's very hard to come across any of their music on youtube, so I figured I would put it up there and see how long it lasts. 

This happens to be the single track of theirs that originally turned my head and made me take notice many years ago. This is a song that was so good I had to copy it to a separate folder just so I would not forget how good it is if I ever forgot the band.

I love the way that they write a verse that is essentially many verses in one, and seems to go from section to section to section before eventually hitting the first chorus or bridge. It's a style of song writing that immediately makes me think of NES music, or chiptunes in general. 

Of course, here they are using smooth clean guitars, jazzy wandering bass lines and slick progressive jazz drumming. There's also a very nice hazy to the whole track. Like a memory, or a dream. The keys and the synths really just float above this track like a thick fog over rolling hills.

Check it out and spread the word!

Klaus Doldinger - Skyscape (1983)

Album: Klaus Doldinger - Constellation (1983)
Song: Skyscape

Klaus Doldinger was originally a German jazz saxophonist who began in the 60s and 70s with the band Passport, but he eventually stumbled in to making movie scores by the time the 80s rolled around. To all of our benefit, he begin to become more interested in synthesizers, especially for writing scores. One stand out example of this is the actual score to The Never Ending Story, which he wrote along side Giorgio Moroder. Somehow he also found the time to single handedly write and produce this solo album, filled almost entirely with synths and electronics.

The best part about that is, since he is an original 60s jazz musician, he knows music. He gets it on the most fundamental level. His use of synthesizers was out of the joy of the emerging brand new sounds that could be created. It is amazing to hear a seasoned and trained musician interpret song writing in the very new genre of synthesizers. And at the time when synthesizers were almost brand new.

This track in particular has always struck a chord with me. Depending on what you are thinking about at the time, it can move you to tears.

Christian Bruhn - Ford Capri Ii (Ford 1973)

Album: Christian Bruhn - Popshopping Vol.1 (released 2001)
Song: Ford Capri Ii (Ford 1973)

Christian Bruhn is a fairly prolific jingle, theme and library musician from Germany. His stuff dates back to the early 60s, but he continued right on into the 80s where he wrote fantastic synth scores for the Captain Future series.

This, however, is raw, advertisement friendly funk. You can practically see woman in long glimmering gloves waving their hands in front of some product on a rotating podium. It was apparently used for a Ford Capri, but I have yet to see the original advertisement. Considering the nature of library music, I am sure this song appeared on lots of commercials, and rightfully so. It's just such a positive sounding track. It's a shame that it was only closely related with rampant consumerism. It's a fantastic piece of art on it's own
that is chalk full of great performances. I wonder how long this track will even be allowed to stay on youtube considering it's ties in a former era.

Anyway, the horn section is oozing with style, which is perfectly backed up by a drummer that is totally demolishing the drums and percussion with a snappy and energetic drum track. Everything is rounded out with this ultra pleasant female vocal section, while flutes and organs swirl around.

Pun intended: It's firing on all cylinders.

Ford at least hired the right guy to compose a track for them.

Rondò Veneziano - La Serenissima (1981)

Album: Rondò Veneziano - La Serenissima (1981)
Song: La Serenissima

An Italian Baroque group from the early 80s onward, that were some of the original adopters of midi technology. It was used to combine electronic production technique with the baroque instrumentation and genre. The result is amazing enough to make my jaw drop, but they weren't finished by a long shot.

I am not sure what the origin of this animation is, but it features the artwork from the group's albums, so I am inclined to believe it is officially associated with them. This video basically features electronic robots playing their instruments in total Baroque era outfits while floating around in a barren future landscape

Local Rabbits - Stomp Your British Knights Down (1999)

Album: Local Rabbits - Basic Concept (1999)
Stomp Your British Knights Down

The vocals for this track were an instant turn off for me when I first heard the band playing during the music segment of an extremely early Tom Green Show episode (season 1 from the Canadian Comedy Network). They are just so high pitch, and bizarre. Certainly one of a kind though...

Almost a decade later I found that the vocal hooks from this song, and the tonality of those vocals were stuck in my head. It began to drive me crazy because for as good as I am at finding music online, I simply could not find this CD anywhere. All I had to go by was my memory of this very strange song. Eventually, I had to resort to buying a used copy of the CD off eBay specifically so I could rip this song and put it on Youtube. I had a feeling that there would have been others out there who were in my same situation. Judging by the view count, I would say that there probably have been some.

After actually getting to hear the version on the album, to my surprise, the lyrics are actually really unconventional and unique as well. They make direct references to actual metal bands and the spirit of metal music in general. Though this band has nothing to do with metal in any way, their knowledge and respect for the genre in the lyrics still put a huge smile on my face. In some ways, the raw energy of this song, and the explicit disregard for what vocals people expect to hear are kind of in the spirit of metal anyways.

"Hat's off to the pointy guitars. 

The bloody logos and the five pointed stars.
Crank up parental-wince-inducing riffs.
To heavy metal may I send my regards"