Synthwave is a fast-growing genre of music at the moment. Given how one person can easily compose an entire album off a few ideas and put it all together, there is no real surprise that there is a vast community of composers and musicians opting to dabble in the electronic arts. YouTube channels like ‘New RetroWave Records’ have helped boost its popularity and unlike the brigade of soundcloud mumblerap twats who look more like that one poor fucker who passed out at a party when someone has a few marker pens on them, it’s actually rather enjoyable to listen to!

Night Machine is one of these emerging synthwave projects and “Themes Of theDead” appears to have a perfect release time. Going live round Halloween and coincidentally, around the time the legendary John Carpenter has been performing (a major influence on Night Machine!), it seems everything is in place for Nathan Yarroll, the mastermind behind this synthwave project, to make an impression.

“Themes Of The Dead” is only a short release, but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for with replay value. There is plenty of atmospheric impact on this release and it gives off plenty of nostalgia feel, be it from 80’s horror films when you’re watching some hopeless teenagers run away from a maniac with a knife, or from the classic 8-bit and 16-bit era gaming consoles which boasted classics like ‘Streets Of Rage’ and other games lauded for both their soundtrack and their gameplay. This feel of familiarity about the identity of the music’s origins and influences also helps with getting a better understanding and immersive feel to the way the music is experienced.

Take “Menace (The Stalker)” for example; it’s a real suspenseful track. The title alone gives you an idea of what it musically represents, but the actual sound it brings really hits home the message and meaning. The suspenseful intro, slow drum beat and foreboding sound effects and samples all set this track up for that explosive moment at 1:50 when the beat drops and it gets going with a heavier and rougher feel to it. As you listen, you can’t help but wonder if that flicker in the corner of your eye was just the light playing tricks or something was actually there. “Dead Party” has a real industrial feel to it a la VNV Nation and the impressive hook to its progression is rather infectious, almost to the degree that when it finishes you are left disappointed in the fact it didn’t last long enough!

The other tracks on the album all follow a pretty similar pattern – they involve a huge atmospheric build up, plenty of intricate layering and some subtle rhythmic shifts to get things going. They’re steady going and well structured, the only glaring issue is that in places, it either takes too long to get to that key point of the track where all the build-up and suspense is leading, or the track is just too short.

“Themes Of the Dead”, like most synthwave projects, is a very niche product. It’s great background listening and there are some parts of the release which made me think ‘I wonder what that would sound like on a 7-string?’ or ‘I can actually see myself being impaled on a machete with this playing in the background’, but unless you appreciate the more electronic-based elements of the musical spectrum or have a thing for soundtrack-like songs, you’ll probably get bored of this very quickly. Still, it’d make a great Halloween party soundtrack!

(6/10 Fraggle)