Released: March 2018
Reviewed by: Benedict Roff-Marsh
I’m gonna be real up front here and say I am not a fan of Electronic Dance Music (EDM). May sound odd coming from an Electronic Musician but the reality is EDM so often represents just about everything I think is wrong in “modern” music. We’ll look at that ball of rant later…
Here we have the very latest album from DEADLIFE who release through the NewRetroWave label out of New York. These guys have a pretty big list of albums on Bandcamp, all in shades of pink that would have made old Claude Neon nauseous. For some reason, the Retrowave kiddies have decided that everything has to look like a cross between a cocaine party and a brothel.
The reason I decided to run with this album is that I didn’t need to turn it off. Normally this sort of thing infuriates me so much that after about 30 seconds I’d rather throw my beloved HTC U Ultra out the window of my car than have to endure another second.
DEADLIFE has managed to include enough light & shade as well as variety to keep the record interesting enough to make it palatable, or even enjoyable. That is something that makers of EDM rarely care (or know how) to do.
We even have some melody in here. It isn’t quite going to be enough to launch an Opera but is enough to hold many of the parts together and keep ’em rollin’. That is enough. Just. Well most of the time anyway.
The style is a bit of a backward/forward flip between soft & floating/blam & splatting with a lot of jerky editing in between. Par for the course but DEADLIFE manage to make it flow better than most. Commonly EDM makers make 8 or 16 bar loops and then glue a few together and call it a song (even if it has no words grrr). Of course, those pieces have no real purpose or story. Through most of “The Order of Chaos” there feels to be a story behind the sequences, blams, splats, and e-e-e-e-e-e-d-dit-s/////.
If I had to define Retrowave for you, you may not like what I have to say, esp if you are a fan of the sub-sub-genre. NewRetroWave says (in pink of course):
For those who are not familiar, Retrowave is a musical genre that harnesses the inspiration and authenticity of 80’s and early 90’s music for today’s generation.
I say it is a bald-faced attempt to keep EDM from falling in upon itself by misappropriating a totally false idea of the 80’s as seen through the eyes of someone who wasn’t there and did no more than watching a YouTube clip with some scenes from movies & TV shows like Night Rider.
I lived through the 80’s. The real 80’s and they sounded nothing like this at all. There was style, angularity, melody, purpose, substance, style and oh not everything was overdriven. If you kids want to sound 80’s then please grab Kim Wilde’s “Select” or Thompson Twins “Into The Gap” albums and study them. Or if you want to be totally Electro then OMD’s first record is pivotal. You’ll notice that they sound nothing like Retrowave. Why not call your sound Narrowwave, Brokenwave or Spentwave (ooh nasty)? To be fair DEADLIFE calls his music Darksynth – that doesn’t try to gain credibility from something else.
“The Order of Chaos” is over 60 mins of music which is generous as I have noticed many records falling back to 30 mins which can be great or just a wee bit scungy. 60 mins, however, is quite a long time to be hit over the head with the same sonic profile & lack of natural dynamics.
At Track 10 “Dark Star” I am feeling a bit pummelled. Part of that is that everything is over compressed and has a wha, wha, wha, wha pattern to it; often even when quieter. Sure it is a popular production technique that accentuates the Kick and makes the piece pulse but when everything (and everybody) goes wha, wha, wha, wha all the time then the technique loses its value and becomes annoying (something they managed to avoid in the 80’s despite Kim’s bro Rikki loving his LFOd bassline).
If I were to compare this record to anything in my collection I immediately thought of Logic System’s “Logic” record from (the real) 1981. Logic System was an offshoot of Yellow Magic Orchestra and while it is a relatively obscure record has a similar sense of flow and story arc. Or you would do well if you are interested in hearing a real 80’s Electro act adapt to a different century with OMD’s fabbo “English Electric” album from 2013.
Bottom line. Not a bad record overall. Probably a really good EDM record so a place to start if you feel you need to listen to some of that EM with the dreaded D in the middle.