Duett - Borderline (2015)
You're never supposed to judge an album by it's cover, but from the first moment my eyes graced upon the pastel, sunset soaked artwork of Duett's "Borderline", I knew this album was going to be exceptional. Something about the washed out, pale, not-so-neon colors seemed to spark my memory, transporting me back to a different time long gone, almost forgotten – and I hadn't even heard the first track!
"Borderline" is Duett's second full length release, captained by UK based producer Ben Macklin and featuring some outright stellar vocals from Stewart Lockwood. Each song is a shining example of production perfection, crafted with light and often glamorous crystalline synthesizers.
Largely down tempo, this album seems to bleed a relaxed late 80's west coast vibe from beginning to end, regardless of which track you choose. The period tonality which is so solidly cemented in this release is unsurprising, given Macklin chose to only use a small number of synths and drum machines which were released over the middle and late 80's.
In spite of sharing a certain tonal quality, each piece of this album delivers in it's own special way. My favorite standouts are the rainy VHS intro and quickly echoing synths of the opening track 'Atlas', the odd drums and atmospheric melodies in "Touch" and the bright brass stabs and Jam & Lewis inspired groove in 'Provision'.
The two songs featuring Steward Lockwood's vocals, 'Julienne' and 'Running Scared' are also easily standouts on the album. Each one of these vocal pieces seem to have traveled back through time to create a truly well defined release that fills all the nostalgic gaps.
In spite of being an ocean fueled relaxation romp, no proper synthwave album would be complete without at least a couple driving up-tempo ground pounders. You can find that here in 'The City' and 'Channel' – thought both still retain the relative shiny and somewhat joyous tonal quality of the album.
Go grab a listen of this synthetic synthwave wonder-piece as soon as you can. There are plenty of producers delving into sci-fi or horror synthwave with intense, blasting basslines. This album is a much welcomed bright beach vacation from the everyday synth grind.