17 May 2022
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EM/FM - Album Review - Quixote

03 Nov 2021 // A review by Gareth Heta
Fitting snugly into the still-relatively underground retrowave sound (an umbrella term loosely used to describe the synthwave/vaporwave microgenres), EM/FM’s debut LP Quixote taps directly into the 80’s nostalgia vein and mines it for woozy pathos and dreamy yearning. Utilising many of the hallmarks of 80’s synth-heavy composers and movie soundtracks, from Phil Collins-esque reverbed drums, plucked bass twang, and all the analog synth tones you could dream of, it’s a fascinating re-composition of elements elevated to pastiche by focusing on real emotion and modern songwriting.

The One leads the album with bright synths that melt like butter around a funky beat and EM/FM’s gentlemanly croon, building and swirling into the kind of pop-stomping confection Rick Astley would have been proud of, but shot through with a hazy melancholy that prevents it from being too disposable. With chugging bass, a pleasing chord progression and a wailing guitar solo, 5 Years could serve as the opening to an action-packed 80’s cop show, but weirder elements bring a proggy vibe, and an electro-breakdown with processed vocals is where the weird fusion really gels, with shades of Oingo Boingo meets Devo - a standout track.

Love song Amalia is a showcase for EM/FM’s swoony, saccharine, heavily-reverbed vox, and clearly influenced by iconic vaporwave LP Floral Shoppe by Vektroid - sickly smooth jazz and elevator ambience chopped, screwed and layered, and elevated beyond staid homage by EM/FM’s songwriting nous and earnestness. Single Close Enough mixes adult contemporary with retrowave vibes into a satisfying package, while Come and Gone is an upbeat spin on the same material, a pleasing call and response with guest vocalist Jocee Tuck, climaxing in both a sax and synth solo resting on beds of arpeggios.

Krissy Sha La La shines a light on one of EM/FM’s clear inspirations: Simon & Garfunkel. The focus on songwriting, both structurally and lyrically, and the fragile yet expressive singing comes together perfectly on this playful, folksy tune, which also reminded me of contemporary soft-rockers Haim. Closer Per Aspera Ad Astra is perhaps the most experimental tune on the LP, veering from pop-song structure to a rambling, epic meditation. A couple of geeky ambient bits round out the runtime and aid in the superb sequencing, an overall cohesive album that showcases a thrilling command and reverence for an oft-misunderstood sub-genre of electronica.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About EM/FM

EM/FM is a songwriter/producer beaming in future sounds of a retro dream.

Leaning into classic synth tones and sophisticated harmony, EM/FM brings a sharp songwriting edge to the fading retrowave scene.


Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for EM/FM

Releases

Quixote
Year: 2021
Type: Album

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