“I like a lot of the new synthwave music, the way they use the sounds from the 80s but with a modern production techniques such as sidechaining etc, also I like that you can use that retro setting to not be so afraid of using musical cliche’s, as with Arcade Messiah, I spend most of the time composing avoiding cliches, if you know what I mean?”
One man musical marvel John Bassett talking to me about his new Synthwave/Synthpop side project SΔCRED ΔPE (I have no idea why we have the Delta sign instead on an ‘A’ either so don’t ask…).
John Bassett is a colossus of the music world, maybe best known as the front man of powerful psychedelic rockers KingBathmat, this talented musician, producer and engineer is also the man behind the instrumental behemoth that is Arcade Messiah. He has also found time to release some rather more chilled and laid back solo acoustic music as well.
Not content with this, John decided to explore his love of 80’s synth music and the more modern ‘Darkwave’ and ‘Synthwave’ genres. Why? well it appears it was just because he could!
When I told John it made me feel as if I was going back to the 80’s he replied:
“…cool, that’s the idea, its a weird one for me as its probably the most personal album I’ve made and covers quite a few problems of late, yet a lot of it has a happy feel to it…”
The album opens with the driving synth of Horn, a dynamic and powerful instrumental that brings to mind Kraftwerk with touches of Jean-Michel Jarre. A swirling synthesiser corrals the troops before we head off on a hell for leather ride. It’s grin inducing and has an utterly addictive and carefree feel to it. Like a melting pop of all the electronic influences from the 70’s, through the 80’s and 90’s and landing in the noughties, my 49-year old ears are picking up all sorts of nuggets of brilliance. Mr Bassett has, once again, brought his magic to another musical style.
Asleep At The Wheel (Part 1) is a much more dark and brooding affair with John’s monotone vocal delivery giving a very dystopian sci-fi feel to the track. The music has a real methodical and relentless tempo, giving an alien tone and the ominous and darkly atmospheric aura created by the Delphian keyboards envelops everything. A mystical and deeply enigmatic three minutes of music indeed.
A pure nod to the 1980’s with it’s synthesier and drum machine brilliance, Birds Fall From The Sky is upbeat and dynamic and John lends his vocals to the mix once again. The catchy synth lines and addictive tempo have me hooked. It’s nostalgic and up-to-date at the same time and leaves me reminiscing abut days down the disco when I was in my 20’s and had hair (no laughing), this man is a musical genius. I found myself transfixed just letting the sepia tinged musical memories come flooding back but feeling that they are also of this time and place as well and that’s a very clever trick.
An eerily laid back synth note opens I Want To Go Back To The Happy House and this unassuming yet delectable piece of music saunters into view, like a lazy, hazy summers day brought to life by music. The keyboard tones are all late 70’s in feel and mood, like early Ultravox or Simple Minds before they discovered fame. It’s a chilled, easy going and lighthearted piece of music where every note passes in an undemanding and mellow vibe.
Season Of The Damned takes some of the John Bassett solo music and blends it artfully with this more synth-heavy style. John’s vocal is heartfelt and earnest and there’s a guitar note dripping with sincerity, matched by the haunting keyboards. As opposed to the other songs on this release, this is instantly recognisable as being from John, it couldn’t be anyone else. This track still feels as if it belongs on the album though, there is no disparity in the musical feel and tone as there is also no 70’s or 80’s influence.
Walking On Ice is like Depeche Mode and Gary Numan did a collaboration and I love it. The forceful synthesiser tone and drums give it a compelling and forceful edge while the rest of music paints soundscapes in your mind. The chorus brings to mind Flock Of Seagulls to this refugee of the 80’s but with modern production techniques everything has a gloss and patina of class and panache. Another track that just puts a huge grin on my face, it’s almost as if John wrote this song for my younger self, the memories come flooding back and I’m just lost in the reverie.
Wonderfully nostalgic in feel and delicate in tone, Asleep At The Wheel (Part 2) makes your emotions well up with its beautiful simplicity and ethereal quality. John’s vocal is ghostly and sublime and the music has an otherworldly ambience to it, especially the haunting nature of the piano but then everything comes to a halt and the song segues into something much more enigmatic, dark and primal in its ambience. The music becomes a dominant force, John’s vocals assertive and commanding and you feel compelled to follow wherever it may lead, a great end to the song and the album.
John Bassett never stands still when it comes to the music he creates and he is never afraid to explore new avenues or take influences from the past or current musical scenes and he’s never let me down yet. With SΔCRED ΔPE John has done it again and created music that just hits the spot on every level. As nostalgia it works perfectly, taking you back through the decades on a wonderful sonic mystery tour and yet it is also bang up to date with the current synth inspired generation. I, for one, just wonder where this musical magicians mind is going to take us next and I can’t wait to find out!
Released 21st April 2017