There aren’t many synth-pop bands that I deem buyable today. I could probably count them all on my left hand. And if I only included the bands that actually played authentic 80’s analogue-driven synth-pop, I’d probably be left counting my stiff middle finger. Sure digital and sampling can mimic just about any sound today…if you know what to mimic of course! Our current generation of electronic heroes can knock up the most devastating beats, create massive drops, and stirring buildups, so synth-pop might seem like the simplest form of electronica to them. Technically that is. Because musically we’re talking two different worlds. 80’s synth music is much more than just a type of sound, it possessed an aura, an atmosphere, creating moods that were as palpable as they were intangible.
George Pappas, aka Alien Skin, and long-time keyboardist and co-songwriter with chart topping Australian band Real Life, who had a multi-million selling ’80s smash with the track, Send Me An Angel, knows all about the analog synth period. He’s lived them, and played them, having made the transition to electronic music in the early 80’s, influenced by the Gore/Wilder version Depeche Mode. Alien Skin has just released his brand new album ‘1980 REDUX’, which recaptures the glorious sounds of real vintage analog synths and rhythm boxes. And along with those sounds come the authentic auras, atmospheres and moods, of a period that spawned innovation.
For the making of this album, Alien Skin was initially inspired by David Bowie’s trilogy work during his artistically adventurous Berlin period. And subsequently the UK movement which sprang up around about that time.80’s revival is nothing new to the music scene in recent years, its array of synthesizer pop makes for an unbelievably catchy listen, and a great blast to the past.
But Alien Skin takes his synth-pop to a different set of limits, as he is not looking to create a revival or appear as a retro hipster. It’s not just flattery, or merely a homage meant to evoke the sounds of the past. He is simply following his heart, and after one listen the true beauty of what he can create is breathtaking.
‘1980 REDUX’ is just as brilliant in its conceptual execution as it is in its painstakingly detailed production work. Each and every song points to a specific event, memory, artist or song from that era, which stuck in Alien Skin’s mind. Essential tracks: “1980 You Were A boy”, “This Fantastic Voyage”, “The Berlin Trilogy”, “Walk on Water”, “The Playground of Syd Barrett” and “Dark Star”.
Every song here hits close to home, to the record’s goal of celebrating the past by creating music that resonates so perfectly in the present. Few people could so totally recreate the sounds of a legendary era and come out with something that sounds so profoundly fresh as ‘1980 REDUX’. In its execution, the record is flawless, an essential distillation of the sounds of nostalgia, melancholy and happiness all mixed up into a sparkling, vibrating melange.
In its spirit, it’s incredibly heartening, the musical equivalent of inspiring people to think back on their past, their childhood, and moments enjoyed together. It’s hopeful and heartbreaking all at once. You don’t have to have lived through the ‘80s to appreciate Alien Skin’s focus – you just have to have lived a little.
If for some obscure reason you know little of this artist, fear not. Careening through nostalgic synths and thick melodies, ‘1980 REDUX’ is not reminiscent of the 80’s in a cheesy manner. On the contrary, the album’s return to the past is overflowing with such heartfelt emotion and passion, that it thoroughly works.
Alien Skin understands that the synthesizer is not just about undifferentiated ambient washes of impressionistic sound but can also deliver guitar-like power and dramatic chord changes. And there’s a sensitivity on display behind the android cool that makes this music far more than the sum of its parts. Couple that with an excellent rhythm section, great keyboard textures, and first-rate arrangements, and you have an album that never seems to wear out its welcome.