Yellow Magic Orchestra

While celebrity deaths don’t faze me much, David Bowie’s was pretty crushing. To have a small celebration of his life, some friends and I watched The Hunger and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I’d never seen the latter, and was pleasantly surprised at the layers of meaning and fantastic soundtrack (not to mention The Kiss.) Even better, the movie reminded me of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s existence. I had heard and loved his film scores for years, but had no idea he was an actor (who wears his everyday new wave/glam makeup while playing a military captain, but whatever.) After a bit more digging I realized that not only does Sakamoto have a thriving solo career, but he was also a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra, who are pretty much the pioneers of synthpop in Japan.

Yellow Magic Orchestra was one of the first bands to focus on synth music in the 70s. While Kraftwerk was a big influence on them, they wanted their music to be “less minimalistic, made more varying use of synthesizer lines, introducing ‘fun-loving and breezy’ sounds, and placing a strong emphasis on melody in contrast to Kraftwerk’s statuesque ‘robot pop.'” Incorporating a lot of pop and italo-disco elements, YMO gained popularity worldwide with their innovative use of the newest synth technology and their great composition skills.

Here’s my favourite song by them, Key:

Chandra

Chandra Oppenheim was 12 years old when she released her only EP, Transportation. Due to her talent and her young age she became a hit in the underground 80s new wave scene, and also collaborated with The Dance. One commenter online says, “I saw her perform either in 1980 or 1981 at a small club in Philly called Omin’s. She had a chaperone with her, and she had to finish her performance before 11 pm because of a curfew. Also, for someone so young she had terrific stage presence.” Add this to the list of things that make me wish time machines existed.

Chandra’s music is synthy, punky, and definitely worth a listen. Fortunately, her original 4 track EP was recently uploaded to Bandcamp with an added 4 previously unreleased tracks! Check out the album here.

Molly Nilsson

Although Molly Nilsson previously collaborated with John Maus and also has a large discography under her belt, I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing her music before today. The above song caught my attention for its macabre/romantic lyrics and minimal melody, and the other tracks I’ve listened to off of various releases are equally as wonderful. I can’t find much information about her, but some articles claim she was born in Sweden and currently lives in Berlin. I’m loving her powerful voice matched with her simple synth anthems. Her ‘These Things Take Time’ release is available on Spotify, and you can listen to/buy her other releases via her official website.

BXOPE

I discovered this fun band thanks to Pornograffity on last.fm. BXOPE (romanized to VHORE) is a new-ish band from Tomsk, Russia. BXOPE has a lot going for them – post punk style female vocals and guitars, drum machine and great synth work. Their songs are sometimes dreamy, sometimes frantic, always beautiful. The above track, Кафка (Kafka), is filled with absurdist poetry lyrics and a carefree attitude.

Unfortunately there’s only a few songs up on their Bandcamp as of now. I was lucky enough to receive a full album of theirs, and after a listen I think you’ll want to keep an eye on this band if Russian style post punk/synth wave bands are your thing. Also very tough to find any info on this band online (in my case, because my Russian comprehension is zero), however here’s what appears to be their official webpage.

Moev live show

Moev have announced that they’re performing a live show at the Otalith Music Festival this August in Ucluelet, BC. I think their live shows are very few and far between these days, and I myself haven’t been able to catch them live before, so I’m beyond excited! I wanted to get the word out there about the show in case any other die hard fans can make it out. The event info is here, and I’ll end this post with a clip of what is probably my favourite Moev song ever:

Kym Amps

In preparation for Veronica Vasicka coming to Vancouver for a DJ gig, I’ve been listening a lot to one of my favourite Minimal Wave compilations, The Hidden Tapes. One track in particular that’s been haunting me has been You Don’t Know My Name by a mysterious artist named Kym Amps.

I’ve tried to do some research on Kym Amps to see if I could find out more info about her, and see if she has any other releases. The always awesome Systems of Romance posted the one single that she definitely released, which you can find here. However, trying to find info on her background and any other releases has been a bit tricky. As for minimal wave songs, that single seems to be all she ever released. However, there also appears to be a soprano vocalist with the same name. I’ve listened to a couple of her songs, and while the non-coldwave songs have a much more polished vocal style (not to mention higher notes), I feel like I can hear a similarity. Her photo from the above biography page and the photo on the cover of the minimal wave single also have some interesting similarities.

If you happen to know any info about Kym Amps feel free to let me know – is she now happy and thriving in a soprano career? Does she still fondly listen to synthy beep boops and dream of releasing some new material in that vein? I’d love to hear what she’s up to these days. Until then, I’ll give You Don’t Know My Name a listen every so often and enjoy the melancholic charm.

Edit: A commenter kindly pointed out that there are two other Kym songs available for purchase on iTunes and streamable on Spotify: I Must Have Been Seeing Things and Days Like These. Her voice is really heavenly and I’ve been loving them!

Figure Study

Figure Study is a minimal synth band based in NYC. According to the description of their self-titled LP on Dark Entries, members Nathan Antolik and April Chalpara met at a Wierd Party event in 2009 and began collaborating soon after. Their music evokes a sense of gloomy foreboding while still remaining very danceable. Loneliness and distance tinge each song, but the soundscape somehow leaves the listener feeling energized instead of desolate. This is an album I’d love to listen to while walking the streets of a city I’ve never been to before, at night.

In addition to their debut LP, Figure Study also has one single available. ‘Lesson One’ was my introduction to this great band, and remains one of my favourites. You can listen to Figure Study by buying their music from Dark Entries, visiting their Soundcloud, or streaming on Spotify or Rdio.