Review: Disco producer, synthesizer pioneer and Hi-NRG originator Patrick Cowley made a lot of highly sexual music. In fact, his muscular synth-disco productions were, for years, the soundtrack of choice in San Francisco's notorious bathhouse scene. It doesn't stop there, though. Unbeknownst to most disco aficionados, Cowley also provided experimental synthesizer tracks to soundtrack gay porn films between 1973 and 1981. Initially released on vinyl last year, School Daze has now been granted a CD edition by Dark Entries and gathers together the best of those productions. Arguably, the material here is amongst his best work. Free of the constraints of the dancefloor, Cowley let himself go, delivering avant garde synthesizer compositions that ranged from spaciously psychedelic ("Out of Body", like some lost Confused House record) and decidedly cosmic (the chugging "Journey Home"), to otherworldly and outlandish ("Zygote"). Recommended.
Review: Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman's 1998 movie Troma's War has become something of a cult classic; a trashy, violence-heavy "wilderness shoot-em-up" that's frequently described as "so bad it's good". Chris DeMarco's synthesizer-heavy soundtrack - all elongated chords, gentle drum machine rhythms, vaguely Balearic synth-funk workouts, eyes-closed guitar solos and humid, tribal-influenced interludes - is undoubtedly the film's strongest selling point. Here it gets issued for the first time on any format, with Ship to Shore giving it the deluxe, coloured vinyl treatment. While it's undoubtedly exceedingly silly in places (this was the 1980s, after all, and it was a low budget movie), there are enough moments of genius to suggest that it should be added to your collection.
Review: Created as an accompaniment to a sixteen-minute film about a water park in Edmonton, Canadian drone artist Dirty Beaches has seen fit to issue his ethereal soundtrack on 10" through Anton Newcombe's A Records imprint. Taking the gentler, melodic approach to noise, Alex Zhang Hungtai employs guitar, piano and lots of reverb amongst other synthesized sounds and squashes it all through a crust of analogue degradation for a truly dreamlike end result. There are brief moments of abrasive sound design, as on "Floating Underwater Watching Waves", but any such fiery sonics are bookended by prolonged, meditative excursions into repeated harmonic phrases.
Review: There's no doubt that this brilliant, synthesizer-heavy soundtrack played a key part in the success of Netflix's deliciously odd thriller, Stranger Things. Written and performed by Survive members Kyle Dixon and Michael Steen, it has the right balance between John Carpenter style creepiness, Vangelis-like melodiousness, and the cinematic feel of classic movie soundtrack material. Happily, the streaming behemoth has decided to release two volumes of musical highlights from the series, beginning with this first volume. It's testament to the quality of the Texas-based duo's work that those who've not seen the series should still enjoy it. This is atmospheric, clandestine electronic music of the highest order. Moody, immersive, and reminiscent of the best material from the 1980s.