Welcome to Electronic Playground. In this weekly column, we will cover tech-heavy music that is a large segment of the Alternative/Indie movement of today. In general, these bands do not see the popularity of some "less out there" acts, so do not be discouraged if you haven't heard of them. We will focus on all types of electronic music in a genre that is known for its subcategories.
We are super excited to talk about this week's Electronic Playground feature artist, FM-84. The 80's style synthwave band features creator, Colin Bennett (affectionally known as Col. Bennett) and now Ollie Wride, who had been featured in FM-84's most popular songs. The truth is, we love synthwave music and FM-84 are another great one. The first time hearing "Running in the Night" from the band's incredible Atlas album,"we knew Bennett and Wride truly embodied all the elements of electronic music that we truly love. The electronic feel is pure nostalgia but also include powerful building melodies, which feel more powerful and important than a simple song or album. The power of the music gives the soundtrack feel of typical synthwave music, but feels as though it should be narrating each of our lives. After a considerable time of listening to this genre of music, you can feel the suspense of their tracks, which leaves you wondering where they will go next. The unknown mimics many of the thematic elements and visuals for electronic music that integrate through science fiction and passion for an eclectic mix that is great listening even if you do not particularly enjoy electronic music. The vocals vary for each song, but each bring elements of historic sounding music. Some of the elements of the music are created from modern, typical instruments, such as Bennett's bass.
FM-84 - Running in the Night
Running in the Night features the vocals of Wride, who would later become a full-time member of the band. His trademark smooth vocals with an almost operatic vibrato really help push the song to its fullest potential. While most electronic music does not translate well to the stage, Wride clearly has talent when it comes to performing and a charisma that makes you wish you were a part of the show. The song has familiar elements from other songs on the album, such as last chance opportunities at being together and how running away together can be the last chance at the love the protagonist is singing about. These lyrics almost seem to mesh with other tracks from the Atlas album, such as our next track, "Let's Talk."
FM-84 - Let's Talk, featuring Timecop1983 & Josh Dally
This song, also from Atlas features a heavy intro beat as the rest of the background feel builds. The song features last week's featured artist, Jordy 'Timecop1983,' Leenaerts, a multi-instrumentalist producer, and Josh Dally, a songwriter/producer and vocalist. Dally's vocals have a Peter Cetera, Richard Marx, Bryan Adams quality that we absolutely love. This added element helps bring the 80s feel full circle. The collaboration resulted in a truly powerful song, with each of the artists contributing their signature styles in the music. Timecop1983 and FM-84 together bring the best elements of retro-electronic music while Dally belts the heavily chorused vocals over the melody. The lyrics tell a tale of a broken relationship and how a couple are passionately in love, but cannot be together anymore. There is a piece missing from the relationship that neither one can get over, so instead, they choose to spend this last time together and hoping for the impossible. We want to say this each time we talk about an FM-84 track, but this may be our favorite track on Atlas.
FM-84 - Don't Want to Change Your Mind
This is a slower ballad, also featuring Wride's vocals, which truly shine on this track. The song builds like a typical 80s pop song, with the pace of a slow jazz or R&B song. This is refreshing amongst other faster power ballads that are littered on the album. The melody builds heavily and continually, which eventually leads to a larger breakdown toward the end of the song. We cannot say enough about Wride's vocals on this track as he sounds like many of the other 80s pop singers who have Grammys littering their floorboards (we assume they just leave them in their cars at this point). The backbeat and bass elements are a bit lighter on this track to complete the softer feel of the theme of the song. This song truly embodies modern electronic elements with classic pop, which satisfies so many different cravings.
How to Listen:
As with others in the retrowave/synthwave movement, FM-84 is going to give you a variety of ways to listen. First, their music is featured on Spotify, which makes access really easy. Also, you can use various methods and hear different elements of the songs. Bigger speakers are going to bring out the heavy bass lines, but that's not all this electronic act is all about. We appreciate bass, in fact, the more the better in the case of this genre, because electronic music has the ability to individually tailor each element of the song, ensuring the highs will always be as good as the lows. Honestly, you couldn't go wrong with a good set of headphones. I'm not talking ones that cancel out higher frequencies, because that would not be enjoyable. Any decent brand will do. You will be able to feel the space between the musical elements. As if you are feeling them coming at you from different directions. Surround sound will aid this, so if you have surround, utilize it.
Overall, FM-84 is a great musical duo and have the best talent at seeking out collaborations. Working with other artists have helped the band diversify their portfolio without tiring out their style and sound. This allows them to take chances in ways other bands may not want to. Because they always know the right person to play with, they get to be a part of all the best catalogues of music. I believe this group truly has more of a fundamental sound than many in this genre and I could see them leading it one day. They have accessed a younger generation with this type of music, but continue to captivate fans of the genre. Universally acceptance is hard to find, but they might be pretty close. Best way to listen to FM-84 is early and often.
Band review: 5/5. Such a strong band, especially with their Atlas LP. We could listen to the album over and over and not get sick of it. If you want to check them out, this is a great place to start.