Dominion (ドミニオン, Dominion) is a Japanese manga written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. Set in the fictional city of Newport, Japan, in a future in which bacteria as well as air pollution have become so severe that people must wear gas masks when outdoors, the series follows a police squadron that uses military-style tanks.

Dominion has been adapted into three original video animation series: the first, Dominion Tank Police, was released in 1988, the second, New Dominion Tank Police (特捜戦車隊ドミニオン, Tokusō Sensha Tai Dominion) in 1993, and the third, Tank Police Team TANK S.W.A.T. 01 (警察戦車隊TANKS.W.A.T.01, Keisatsu Sensha Tai TANK S.W.A.T. 01) in 2006. The 1988 OVA is four episodes long and animated by Agent 21, the 1993 OVA is six episodes long and animated by J.C.Staff, while TANK S.W.A.T. is one episode long and was animated by DOGA Productions. The manga was published by Hakusensha, Kodansha and later by Seishinsha. It has been published in English by Dark Horse Comics. The anime has been released in English translation in the United Kingdom and Australia by Manga Entertainment and in the United States by Central Park Media, under their U.S. Manga Corps division.

Cyberpunk from the land of the rising sun. Masamune Shirow’s precursor to his magnum opus Ghost in the Shell. Tank Police is retro-futuristic camp, as cheesy as you would imagine a love child of the Kerberos Panzer Cops and the Police Academy films.

First aired in the States on the Sci-fi Channel in it’s first years during Saturday Anime in the 90’s.
Get connected. Enjoy the ride and t
une into a channel under a dead sky and get jacked into my nostalgic drip.

Stay off the drugs, stay strapped, stay dangerous, don’t forget your burner, wetware and ballistic hardware and always keep your finger on the REWIND button.

-HaiNe

 

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Best Retro television & films of 2023

This will be a list of both television/streaming series and full length films that premiered in the year 2023.

  1. PLUTO : A Netflix original mini-series based on the acclaimed manga by Naoki Urasawa. Pluto is a retelling of a story arc from the pages of Astroboy by Ozama Tezuka. A riveting story that should be talked about a lot more. Don’t expect the Saturday Morning cartoon formula. This is a masterpiece with brilliant and poignant references to our current geopolitical climate, debates on A.I., Civil Rights, life & death, PTSD and the costs of war on the spirit. Anime of the year.
  2. Dungeons & Dragons (Honour Among Thieves) : A quick and straight to the point adventure starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Sofia Lillis and Rege-Jean Page as your typical D&D table-top party archetypes. Not too dark and not too comedic with wonderful landscapes and action set-pieces. Worth the viewing.
  3. Super Mario Bros the Movie: What a wonderful and beautiful film. The textures and amazing animation painted with the most beautiful colors I’ve seen since Children of the Sea. The story is what you’d expect and that’s fine. The voice actors did their thing here and performed nicely according to the script. A must watch on psychedelic stimulants.
  4. Barbie: I heard it was good. I interviewed over a dozen people about it with 19 out of 20 giving positive responses. It has to be good to earn $1.4 billion dollars. Good job. Keeps that momentum going.
  5. Town Called Malice (series): Created by Nick Love (Football Factory, The Business, The Firm) for Sky Max. The series premiered on 16 March 2023, with the full set of episodes being made available on Now. Jason Flemygn and Martha Plimpton star with an ensemble cast as a family living the life in the 1980s on the coast of Spain only to be entangled with the criminal underworld of their new home. Stylized Neon Crime.
  6. TMNT Mutant Mayhem : The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman. A reboot of the Turtles film series, it was directed by Jeff Rowe and co-directed by Kyler Spears, from a screenplay and story written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Rowe, with Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit co-writing the former and Brendan O’Brien the latter. Acid dripped animation not too different from the Spiderverse films featuring Miles Morales. The turtles battle in and under the streets of New York City against the schemes of villains like Baxter Stockman and henchmen including Bebop & Rocksteady.
  7. Scott Pilgrim Takes OFF: A collaboration between Netflix and Japanese animators, Takes Off is a retelling of the original graphic novel as well the live-action film. The entire cast returns to lend their voices to the story. Still streaming on Netflix.
  8. Yu Yu Hakusho : Like it or not Netflix is determined to bring a lot of your favorite Toonami series to life. The beloved Yu Yu Hakusho has been adapted in live-action. However, there is one drawback. This is a very short season with a lot of character development from the anime crammed, if not rushed, into these episodes. I am no uber-fan of live-action animes but, it’s been hit and miss with Netflix with the Death Note adaptation being its worse while the live-action One Piece had a good launch with some if not most fans. Hopefully, Netflix can continue to improve with the upcoming Avatar: the Last Airbender series soon to premiere on the streaming app.
  9. Totally Killer : The Retro Slasher Comedy from Blumhouse came like a whisper and tickled every remember-berry I could have. First off, Kiernan Shipka is always going to give you a good performance and she doesn’t disappoint. The film will seem like just a slasher back to the future rehash but, at the halfway point it does start to pick up the pace and plays out into being a pretty entertaining film. Still streaming on Amazon Prime, worth a watch.
  10. Jewel Thief (Documentary) : Now this is a film that I started watching out of boredom and boy is it a helluva documentary. Gerald Blanchard the infamous international jewel thief and con-artist is a tale that spans three decades and is documented in this brilliant documentary on HULU with testimonies from associates, victims and law enforcement local, federal and international. This is an absolutely recommendation for true crime fans and those looking to remember a simpler time in their yesteryears. Too good to miss.

And there it is your list of (in my opinion) the best in retro for the year 2023. Stay cool, Stay Classy, Stay Chill and remember never take your finger off that REWIND button.  

 

“Look forward to more reviews and Fish Scale in the 2024.”

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Top 10 Synthwave Album Art of 2023

10. Hardwired by Neuromancer
Album Art By @solomacello

9. How To See Through Walls by Windows96
Album Art by Windows96

8. Vintage Feelings by Evertt
Album Art by @artfulimagers

7. TRIFECTA by A.L.I.S.O.N, VIQ, Krosia
Album Art by Terence Sitbon

6. Voxanima by FUJII
Album Art by Burning Chrome

5. Wavefinder by Sferro & Makeup and Vanity Set
Album Art by Dylan Marcus McConnell

4. First Person Shooter by Various Artists
Album Art by Atom Cyber

3. Slow Tapes by l y n x
Album Art by LYNX

2. Fragments by Forhill |
Album Art By Valentin Pavageau

1. Data Fire by Korizon
Album Art by @DesignSince86 (Andrew Walker)

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It has been an honor to watch the synthwave genre grow and evolve over the past few years. We are continually astounded by the sonic innovation our community shows – and 2023 has been no different! There’s a touch of every subgenre of synth in this year’s list – we hope you enjoy our top 10 synthwave albums of 2023!

 

The Top 10 Synthwave Albums of 2023:

 

10. Along by demin

9. Slow Tapes by l y n x

8. Rogue by Wice

7. Axiom by PYLOT

6. First Person Shooter (Original Documentary Soundtrack)
by Various Artists

5. Premi​è​re Anthologie by Adieu Aru

4. Data Fire by Korizon

3. Between the Moon and Stars by Futurecop!

2. Unicorn by Gunship

1. Wavefinder by Sferro & Makeup and Vanity Set

 

Honorable Mentions

TRIFECTA by A.L.I.S.O.N, VIQ, Krosia

 

Katarsi by Katarsi

(Not really synthwave, but this is just too good to ignore!)

Evenings 夕​暮​れ Vol. 1 by Hotel Pools

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The Top 10 Collaborations of 2023 are…

10.

Makeup and Vanity Set & Sferro – Memory Screen

 

9.

Neon Nox x LukHash – Midnight Run

 

 

8.

Neilio – CYPHER (feat. Kaarin Zoe Lee)

 

 

7.

Preston Knight – Human (feat. Hello Meteor)

 

6.

Wice – City Nights (Feat. J+1)

 

 

5.

Dreamhour – She’s Everything (feat. Dokodoko)

 

4.

House Of Serpents – Ritual (feat. Battlejuice)

 

3.

Timecop1983 – Read My Mind (feat. Josh Dally)

 

 

2.

Kid Moxie & NINA – Electric Kiss

 

1.

PYLOT x Tyler Lyle – Time Bomb |Visualizer|

 

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Shin Masked Rider (2023)

 

Back from the ether and here on the nostalgia streets with another bundle of retro content to think back on.

Currently streaming on Amazon Prime is the recent film by Hideaki Anno (Evangelion, Shin Ultraman, Shin Godzilla) and the newest live-action interpretation of the beloved Kamen Rider franchise.

Sosuke Ikematsu stars as our masked rider, Takeshi Hong. Hong is a motorcycle enthusiast that after being abducted experimented and turned into an augmented hybrid cyborg that is enlisted in the fight against an evil organization of “Augs” threatening to take over the world by any means necessary.

The film does start off slow and will have moments where the characters and story can breathe and flesh themselves out. But, make no mistake this is an action movie. In fact – this is probably one of the best superhero films on the year (in my opinion). The action is brutal and visceral and well filmed; the whole movie is filmed very well with decent pacing. For a live-action Japanese movie Shin Masked Rider is outstanding.

Based on the manga by Shotaro Ishinomori , this entry in the franchise celebrates 50 years of Kamen Rider that consists of numerous television series and feature films. It was released in Japan on March of 2023, earning $16 million dollars making it the highest grossing film in the series and receiving positive reviews from critics.  

Currently available to view Free on Amazon PRIME with original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles optional.

Shin Masked Rider is a definite recommendation and worthy of your time.

Stay Tuned tomorrow for the return of the Retro Movie handpicked by yours truly. Until then, stay cool, stay dry and always keep your finger on that REWIND button.  

 

 

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The milieus are open [in the/to] chaos which threatens them with exhaustion or intrusion.

Deleuze and Guattari

Intrusion – a recurring concept which haunts and tempts me at the same time. My simultaneous nemesis and salvation. My imperishable confirmation and, synchronously, the unscrupulous pitfall within which I ensnare myself all too often. I had to put my 6-part farewell review on hold due to its unfathomable and unpredictable machinations. Yet, somehow miraculously – miraculously as if I had once again gone back in time to unintentionally exploit my past serendipity towards literature which moves and dances – I have put my hands on a novel which not only grants you insight into how different and multifaceted nothingness of the 21st Century appears to be, but also shows the other concept mentioned in the opening quote – exhaustion. And its puckishly splendorous consequences.

The Panda Theory by Pascal Garnier, is one of these novels which you can only read once, just like Iain Reid’s I’m thinking of ending things, yet it perches on the opposite side of the concept-inducing spectrum. So closely does the Frenchman’s novel resemble a beautiful inevitability of not being able to resist a new dimension of meaninglessness associated with life itself, it takes a courageous mind not to crumble under its sentences. ‘Courageous’ here meaning being able to withstand the stares, with which uncharted types of abysses – ‘granddaughters’ and ‘grandsons’ of Nietzschean Abyss – so gladly and eagerly x-ray us each and every day. Provided the novel ‘accepts’ you. Contrary to the Canadian’s book which retains the accessibility of a mystery novel, The Panda Theory, with its post-existential vibe, is highly exclusionary. How so? It’s time to meet our Protagonist.

It’s fairly safe to assume, the only precise method of defining things is by way of showing. Pointing your grubby finger, your not-so-square chin, your presupposedly round head. Not only is this ostensive brazenness required to demonstrate who Gabriel – The Panda Theory protagonist – is, but there simply is no other way to depict what remains of everything a human being constitutes after nothingness has overthrown it all. That’s why I would like you to imagine my words are fingers, chins and heads. At least, until the following paragraph ends.

Gabriel appears in a small Breton town where the devil says goodnight. At first, he seems like a regular type of guy, although a bit introverted one. He knows how to get by and has some money. What he has more, though, is a somewhat penetrative ability to get into the orbit of other people’s lives. Yet, this penetrative passiveness of his – that’s what my crooked finger would point at – somehow escapes the clear definition. As if it were peppered with something unnamable which enriches it with frank dejection, a bold, stout, self-evident refusal to become fully attached to something and/or someone. Or to anything and everyone in general. A presence without being, an unfounded appearance, a banshee of the state-of-the-art Nothingness, Gabriel is an intrusion, a ‘grandson’ of Nietzschean Abyss, whose eyes neither reject nor approve, neither judge nor do they cut anybody any slack. He is an active man – he wanders around the town, talks to people, befriends them and – first and foremost – cooks for them. Just like any other open-hearted fellow would do. However, there is something irrevocable about him, something which separates him from everything and everyone, existentially, almost metaphysically. As if he were molded from a different type of clay, a more exhausted one. From the second, also pretty intrusive, narrative we get to know why is that so, and suddenly the slow-paced yet lucid goings-on accelerate through the build-up and twist phase… and we are struck by sensations which escape well-trodden paths of description.

What strikes the most in The Panda Theory, though, is the straightforward delicacy of language. I like to call it “The French Subtlety”. Name-wise, a slightly questionable trait, especially for authors of different nationalities who also possess it, nevertheless, it fits like a glove. Garnier himself oftentimes claimed that he kept his narratives plain and simple due to his insufficient education. A gross exaggeration bordering on self-flagellation, especially when the instantly perceptible intensity of his writing style hits us like a bludgeon. The book reads smoothly, surprisingly, considering the weight it carries on its back. Garnier’s pen ‘strokes’ (apparently, the Frenchman was also a painter), distinctively calm, with unpretentiously poetic touches here and there, are as far from numbing your thoughts and making your heart yawn as a fingerless vet is from becoming an origami master. The brilliance of Garnier’s writing lies in his honesty. He is one of those authors who write not with their blood, but the blood of their spirits, blood of their hearts, blood of their souls. This “trisomy” of blood springs warrants there is no beating about the bush, every sentence is like a finely oiled cog and sprocket, fitting seamlessly into the true-to-life machinery of narrative, being only one step removed from the natural flow of events. The memorable mimetic prowess of Garnier’s prose is almost unmatched and resembles a harmonious melody of necessities. Perhaps that’s why we have no objections believing Gabriel is an intrusion, or, rather, inTRUEsion…

Juxtaposing Garnier’s main character with protagonists of David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress and Georges Perec’s A Man Asleep, we witness another type of outsider-ish alienation. It is less of a post-skeptical metaphysical somersault of Kate’s “no-other-wayness” than obtuse obfuscations experienced by the nameless hero penned in the 2nd person by the OuLiPean Prince himself, however, by way of sheer tangibility of silent disgruntlement with reality, Gabriel is on a par with them both. He retains the firmest grip on it, though. The reality exhausted him thoroughly, sucked him dry, true, thus he resorts to the last thing remaining – becoming an intrusion, turning “antiseptic” to all identifiable internal human affects and afflictions. Yet, he rides the more subordinate wave of oddity, dejectedness and inexpressibility than Markson’s and Perec’s protagonist do. He is less philosophically flamboyant and oblivious than Kate from Wittgenstein’s…, as well as less language-bound and separated from externality than Perec’s ‘sleepwalker’ is. He may be patted on the back, smiled at, talked to, yet he is absent, his internal qualities are abject, depleted, nonexistent. He is a shadow of a shell, a none – if I may transform this indefinite pronoun into a regular noun – a none which is so used to its own exhaustion, it strips him down to the bare necessity of continuing to be without everything. If every facet of reality is laced with illusions, then Gabriel has to be what he is – a dis-illusioned none, a harbinger of unassuming nothingness. A nothingness which might be approached, even high-fived, yet it remains untouched. And will carry on doing so, from the bleak beginning on a grim train station to… well, I am not going to spoil the wide grin of Panda.

Amonne Purity

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Ruffian riders immediately overrun the peaceful scenery of old west California at the story’s start. Clint Eastwood drops the viewer into a conflict between gold mining interests headed by Coy LaHood (Richard Dysart), and a dwindling group of settlers trying to make their way as simple gold panners. As many considered the Western film passe by the 1980s, especially after several cinematic bombs, Eastwood took a risk with Pale Rider in 1985. Fortunately, due to his steady hand directing and consistent stoic acting, the enthusiasm of the other actors, and the dramatic tension highlighting biblical themes, critics and audience alike found it to be a winner. As the years have passed, Eastwood’s follow-up Western Unforgiven has overshadowed Pale Rider. Still, there’s much to praise in this story of heaven-sent justice wielded by a simple preacher.

After the ransacking of the settlement, we turn our attention to young Megan (Sydney Penny). One can tell that this story is going to be a spiritual journey. We listen to her prayer, a recitation of Psalm 23 with her current heartfelt concerns interspersed. A visual representation of God answering her prayers, the man only known as Preacher (Clint Eastwood) comes down from the mountain like Moses. Just like the prophet of old, we have an inkling that he’s here to execute the moral law upon the wicked.

 

Normally, child actors can be a miss, especially when put up against seasoned adult actors. However, the precocious Megan proves to be the standout of the film. She expresses a resolute fierceness against the LaHood gang pushing her around, but also exudes a humble spirituality as shown by her opening prayer and her later continuing faith in Preacher.

There’s a later scene between her and Preacher that could prove to be awkward to the audience. Her admiration for the courage of Preacher grows into infatuation, and Megan seeks to entice the interest of him. As the moral center of the film, Preacher turns her down. Because of her youth, her strong emotional attachment, and the mistaken reading of interactions, she takes his rejection to mean something else. Her mood swings quickly from one of attraction to that of jilted hatred. If not handled properly, this scene could come off as disingenuous and awkward. However, Penny portrays Megan the way a teenager would act in the moment. Beneath the surface you can tell there’s no true hatred. There’s just a confused response due to her not getting what she wants in the moment.

Megan’s mother Sarah (Carrie Snodgrass) puts in a fine performance as the worn-down frontierswoman. However, the other actor that gives the film heart is that of Michael Moriarty, portraying the meek, but stubborn Hull Barret. He’s probably today most recognized as the protagonist of low-budget fare such as Q and The Stuff from Larry Cohen. In these films he plays extroverted eccentrics. Hull is mild-mannered and contemplative in contrast. This does not mean that he lacks courage. Earlier in the film, against LaHood’s commands, he enters the neighboring town for supplies to repair the ransacked settlement. Before he leaves, LaHood’s men assault him. Still, he requires the muscle that Preacher can provide to fight back.

Preacher, however, provides more than physical strength. He gives the community faith. Faith in a better tomorrow. Even LaHood recognizes this as more of an obstacle to his operations than just individual opposition. “A man without spirit is whipped. But a preacher, he could give them faith. Once ounce of faith, they’ll be dug in deeper than tick on a hound.”

A beautiful example of the positive influence that Preacher has on the settlers is concerning a situation with a massive ore boulder. Though Hull believes there’s gold hidden within, the task of chipping away at it seems too much. It’s Preacher’s initiative of striking away at the ore that prompts Hull to join in. As Preacher stands up to threats from LaHood’s son and an imposing hired henchmen, the rest of the community realizes that they don’t need to be afraid anymore if they stick together. They then assist to hammer away on the ore, revealing what Hull believed was within originally.

It’s interesting to note that though the villains of the film are hateworthy, they’re not portrayed as cartoonish. It would’ve been too easy, especially coming from a Spaghetti Western background, for Eastwood to portray the antagonists as bloodthirsty maniacs, without concern for law or the mores of the day. However, LaHood tries to work his schemes through the protections of the law. He’s careful not to kill the settlers; in the opening scene, the only casualties are livestock and Megan’s pet dog. He’s even willing to buy them off their land, paying a high price for each head. Finally, he utilizes the services of a Marshal named Stockburn and his deputies.

However, Eastwood wants you to realize that though these actions may be legally right, they fail to measure to the standards of higher, moral law. It thus seems fitting that Preacher faces down Stockburn, LaHood, and their men. He’s either a divine revenant or the personification of Death coming to claim those that God has judged.

“Come and See!” These are some of the words from Revelation 6:7,8 pointing out the fourth horsemen of the Apocalypse. These verses are also the basis for the film title. Eastwood wanted to show audiences that the Western was not dead. It could still tell innovative stories. Though the film features elements from both classic and Italian Westerns, it also points forward to the revisionist Westerns that would be popularized in the 90s, including his classic Unforgiven.

The moody theme that lingers while Preacher is on screen. The early winter setting, which gives off the chill of the grave. The emotional highs and lows vividly depicted by even the minor characters. These aspects, among others, make Pale Rider to be Eastwood’s defining movie of the 80s. It gathers past elements of both acted and directed Clint Eastwood films into one narrative. However, it also shows the promise that he had much more to say, whatever the genre.

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Once every few years an album comes along that reminds me of why I started writing about music the first place. “Wavefinder” – the astounding collaboration between Sferro and Makeup and Vanity Set (MAVS), is definitely one such album.

On the face of it, you wouldn’t expect a collaboration album like “Wavefinder” to be so brilliant. Sure, both Sferro and Makeup and Vanity Set (MAVS) have honed their superb synth skills for over a decade – but their production styles are vastly different.

Sferro’s work is decidedly digital, featuring brilliant melodies driven by a disco heartbeat. MAVS, on the other hand, has honed his analog feel – slicing through soundtracks and albums alike with a keen edge of atmosphere.

So, I expected “Wavefinder” to be good – even great, given the sheer experience and quality of musicianship from these two artists. Truthfully though, I also expected some fragmentation – a certain disjointed feeling that is frequently noticeable with similar collaboration albums. It’s a sad fact that often when artists collaborate, there is a clash. Sometimes it’s ego, sometimes it’s production style, or wanting to go in different conceptual directions. Sometimes the final tracks just seem out of order. After listening to dozens and dozens of collabs, I can tell you there’s always something…

“In a lot of ways… the music sort of… tells me what it needs, you know? Then I just sort of let it happen.”

But then, as the first remarkable ripples of “Wavefinder” washed over me, I realized this record is something special. There is no clash – in fact, the opposite is true. The diverse styles of Sferro and MAVS complement one another in a unique way, merging into a gestalt of splendid sonic bliss that neither producer would have likely created on their own. From the initial vox-like trill of ‘Cursors’ to the final 90s-infused ambient decay of ‘Do You Really Want An Answer,’ every track on “Wavefinder” is truly exceptional.

MAVS + Sferro Wavefinder Vinyl From Stratford Court Records

MAVS + Sferro Wavefinder Vinyl From Stratford Court Records

Between syncopated kicks and stuttering hi-hats, there is a tangible atmosphere that pulls you in, demanding your attention. Brilliant polyphonic melodies emerge in perfect counterpoint to thick, juicy basslines – all punctuated by eccentric synth stabs that give the tracks an intense sense of movement and groove. And, of course, all of these elements are masterfully mixed and mastered. All of these different elements complement one another perfectly – much like Sferro and MAVS – and the end result sounds magical.

Throughout the album, there is a pervasive 90s nostalgia feel – which makes sense considering Sferro revealed during our interview that several of the tracks were actually outtakes  “Emotion Engine.”  Often the synth leads or stabs are also just slightly detuned, filtered with the analog wow and flutter warble of a VHS cassette in a very similar technique used in MAVS’ latest EP, “Gradient Ultra.” (Both of those releases made our yearly top 10 lists in 2021 and 2022 – and you should absolutely listen to them if you haven’t already!)

But, for MAVS and Sferro, that lush analog sound was not infused into “Wavefinder” for the often-cited stereotypical reason of feeling “warm” or “fat” – but instead to add a sense of organic decay and randomness. Chance.

“Anytime I can add unpredictability, I’m surprised by what it’s doing…” MAVS related in the same interview. “In a lot of ways, [through analog effects] the music sort of… tells me what it needs, you know? Then I just sort of let it happen.”

Makeup and Vanity Set at Human Music 2

Makeup and Vanity Set at Human Music 2

Surprisingly, Sferro also related that although his workflow is digital, chance plays a large role in his production as well. “I can’t really explain it, but it happens to me digitally as well, because my computer sold. Like every render, dude… every render is different.”

“I don’t want to do the typical synthwave stuff anymore. I’ve done that beat and that to death… so the early 2000s, late 90s kind of thing – that’s what seemed attractive to me.” – Sferro

Perhaps most surprising is that MAVS and Sferro had never created together before, in spite of growing up within a few miles of one another in northern Ohio. In fact, the closest they had come to working together was when they both independently created tracks for the Demin’s “Initiate (Remixes)” – which happened to be very important to the genesis of “Wavefinder.”

MAVS + Sferro Wavefinder Cassette

Demin’s work sounds a lot like a sort of shimmering Com Truise. In fact, when “Initiate” was released, it led many to speculate that Demin may actually be a side project of Seth’s. This rumor is false, of course – as MAVS related perfectly in our recent interview, “…having talked to Seth over the years, I know that he’s into drum and bass and other stuff…. it would be weird for him to just do another thing that sounds like Com Truise.”

In fact, that sound – the Com Truise sound – is quickly becoming it’s own small microgenre called “Datawave,” Similar to how HOME’s work spawned Chillsynth. After working on the Demin tracks seperately, MAVS and Sferro thought that datawave sound would be perfect for “Wavefinder.”

“I didn’t want to deviate in the remix too much from [Demin’s] sound because I liked the sound. I was curious about the ‘datawave’ space…. so I just sort of leaned into that for the remix…and… it felt good. [Later] when I started to dig into the stuff [Sferro] had sent me, it just seemed like the logical progression, like the place to go. You always want to do something that’s exciting to you…and in that moment, that was what was exciting.”

Sferro at Neon RetroFest

Sferro at Neon RetroFest

But, in spite of finding inspiration in the Com Truise / datawave sound, no part of “Wavefinder” feels pastiche. Instead, the entire sound feels somehow new again – like re-experiencing your favorite movie for the first time. (Or, in my case, my favorite album.) That… genuine feeling – I think that’s what makes “Wavefinder” feel so special. At times it feels like so much synthwave today has been over-produced and polished into nothing but a rose-tinted mirror. It’s so incredibly refreshing to hear two old-guard synth artists creating sounds so new and fresh.

Like I said in the beginning of this review, it’s rare to find a release that reminds me of why I started writing about music in the first place. Those are nice words, sure – but what does that really mean? Well, the reason why I started writing about music was because I wanted to share the music that I loved with as many people as possible – and that sort of sums up how I feel about “Wavefinder.”

I love it.

 

Top tracks: “Hit Bit,” “Rubber City,” “Memory Screen,” and “Wavefinder.”

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In high spirits and high regards, I recommend this new film from the Mase Brothers.

2023’s DRAGON COP is, in the words of it’s creators, “A love letter to 80’s/90’s Hong Kong and U.S. martial arts movies”. And it succeeds in doing so.
I can’t tell you how good and refreshing it was to see this movie after months of enduring bad and worse made films on my Prime account.

Dragon Cop’s eye for cinematography surpasses and triumphs over other independently made action films. A really well lit and good looking movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t handicap itself on puns and humor. Did I mention already that the action scenes are good too. Yes, there are actors in this film that can really execute choreography with precision. For being a short campy film, this is entertaining. Mixing elements of Martial Arts, Buddy-Cop films, Action films with straight to VHS levels of dialogue – It rocks. 

To summarize it in laymens terms, imagine your favorite Hong Kong Cynthia Rothrock film mixed with equal parts Lethal Weapon, Loaded Weapon 1, Replacement Killers, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Triple Impact (1992) and good splashes of Albert Pyun. 

The only negative I can take away from this film is that it is too short. Yes, Dragon Cop is actually the best possible trailer you could have for a full blown feature film/follow-up sequel. As you read this, the Mase Brothers are hard at work on Dragon Cop 2: Dragon’s Revenge. Absolutely something I am looking forward to seeing once it is completed.

I was blessed to be able to speak with the Mase Brothers about this project via social media and ask them a few questions.

Pleasure to be able to chat with you guys. (Dragon Cop) Great departure from your previous short film
1. How long did it take you to make the film?

Dragon Cop took us 3 and a half days of filming and 2 months of post-production with the composition of the music in parallel.

2. I noticed that you were inspired by Hong Kong films from the 80s. Films like some of Jackie Chan’s early films. What other Hong Kong movie stars and movies have inspired Dragon Cop.

Dragon Cop is a tribute to all those urban action films of the 80s early 90s from Hong-Kong, the references are from films like the Tiger Cage film series by Yuen Woo Ping or In The Line of Duty by Corey Yuen, but a lot of Sammo Hung, Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen movies from the golden age of HK films.
Besides, the character of Cynthia is a reference to actress Cynthia Khan and Dragon to Donnie Yen. I also have an admiration for John Woo’s brutal and poetics like directing, especially with films like A Better Tomorrow (1986) or Hard Boiled (1992).

3. How did you choose your music composers.

I had already collaborated on a previous shortfilms (Boglins Return) with the artist Jupiter-8 who is based in Vancouver and I really liked his work very much inspired by 80s neo noir films, he composes soundtracks for fictitious movies and it’s really awesome. His music mixes the atmosphere of Michael Mann, or John Carpenter movies with a good actioner from the 80s. He did a really great score on Dragon Cop very John Woo oriented.
As for the Swedish artist Holoflash, I contacted him because I am absolutely a fan of these different musical projects (Palace, Platforms) Specializing in everything 1980’s from smooth-jazz to popwave, to training-montage AOR .

I wanted a powerful theme for Dragon Cop like it was done in the movies of the 80s, and its title « Rise Of The Dragon » takes up all the codes of the genre! He really has an amazing voice. There is also talk of developing other songs in Dragon’s Revenge, the sequel to Dragon Cop, where the Colombian composer and longtime friend Meteor (already present on Cyborg Deadly Machine) will also be invited. I like being able to work with several artists from different countries, it’s really great and it would be impossible without the internet. In any case, I recommend that you go and discover its fabulous artists who are absolutely talented and quite unknown in the end.
5. How long did it take to choreograph and film the fight scenes?

The shooting of the sequence taking place at the warehouse with all the fights lasted 2 days and one evening + 1 day for the final scene of the shooting at the Pagoda. There was not much time for preparation Jérome Bernard Var and Team Cascade 31 did a really great job of capturing the aesthetics fight of HK films. Julien Phuong Le and Arnaud Peries are Taekwondo champions, that helps 🙂 Line Phe is an actress / stuntwoman and the whole team that accompanied us is really 100% given! The energy is felt in the film I think.

6. What was the reaction from audiences and critics?
Since its release 3 weeks ago we have received a lot of good feedback, and fans of the genre seem to have seized all the references! This is really Masebrothers’ approach, we want to bring back good memories for people through our films. I myself am a big consumer of this kind of films since I was kid and thru my childhood eyes I approached the making of Dragon Cop! With my collaborators Jérémy Vazzoli(who signed the photography) and the Team Cascade 31 we would really like to be able to
produce the sequel to the film called Dragon’s Revenge which will take place in a fictional city in the United States name New Jack City and will incorporate references to films like Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour and even a little bit of Big Trouble in Little China! While keeping this HK signature a la Jackie Chan and John Woo for action!
We have set up a crowdfunding page on Kickstarter where we offer people who like this kind of cinema to support this project!
Thank you NRW for this interview and for your support for many years! We greet your whole team warmly!
Stay Retro!//www.kickstarter.com/projects/masebrothers/dragons-revenge

So STAY Tuned, Chip In, and Keep your finger on that Rewind Button.

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Makeup and Vanity Set and Sferro’s latest album “Wavefinder” is simply astounding. It drops today at 12pm ET / 9am PT over on Stratford Court Records. We’ll have a full review out later – but for the moment you’re just going to have to trust me…or listen to the single:

But, believe it or not, this brilliant collaboration almost slipped through the cracks of history. Heck, even this interview almost didn’t happen!

“…would it be possible to reschedule the call for tomorrow? Eric’s been out of commission today with a migraine…” – Makeup and Vanity Set (hereafter referred to as MAVS)

My heart sank. I’d been interested in interviewing these two “reclusive” synth pioneers (separately) for years. But the truth is, in spite of MAVS infamous robber mask and Sferro’s disdain for being photographed, neither of them are truly reclusive. They’d just rather focus on what really matters – creating music – instead of being a “brand.” MAVS is also notoriously busy, often working on multiple film soundtracks and albums at once.

Sferro's Only Known Photograph

Sferro’s Only Known Photograph – Trust Me, I looked!

All that work and a surprise bout of COVID almost stopped this album from being produced. Thankfully, sometimes the stars align even in this, the darkest of timelines. Never say never.

Looking back it was kind of like a very nice,  “…you blew it.” – MAVS

So, what was the genesis of the album? How did you two come to work together?

Sferro: “I reached out to Matt just to see if he was busy…. if he had time to maybe do a track. I thought it was just gonna be a single track…and yeah, he’s a very busy guy so it took a while.”

MAVS: “I had a million things going on – and I just sort of sat on it. It was totally my fault. He had followed up a few times, and I said “I still want to do it!” but… it just kept slipping to like the bottom of the stack.”

I’ve loved Eric’s stuff for so long – and we have the Ohio connection – and I thought this would be super cool to do. So finally I scratched out some time and I sat down one day and did a track…and immediately after, I got COVID. So I was bedridden for a week, and Eric DM’d me on Instagram and said, “Hey, man if you’re not gonna do anything with these tracks, I think I’m just gonna… uh, finish them.” Looking back it was kind of like a very nice,  “…you blew it.”

Sferro: *Laughter*

MAVS: “So I replied back and was like, “NO no, no, no, no – I did one! I did one!” and I sent him a dropbox link and he was really into it. I got better from COVID, and we just… kept going. After that the record itself came together super fast. I mean, it took like three weeks.”

 

That’s a great story! But what’s this “Ohio connection”? I’m from Ohio myself.

MAVS: It’s funny, Eric and I have never met in person – but he actually lives in [Northern Ohio,] which is where I’m from. He’s actually super close to where my family lives.

Sferro: We had no idea until he posted a picture while visiting and I was like, “Oh Shit you’re like two minutes away from my house!”

MAVS: *Laughs* “Yeah, so we had flirted a few times by having our remixes featured on the same album. More recently we were both on the Demin Initiate (Remixes) album – but yeah we’d never worked together properly before this one.

A lot of people seem to think Demin’s work is actually a Com Truise side project.

MAVS: “I don’t know man…Having talked to Seth over the years, I know he’s into drum and bass and some other stuff. It would be kinda weird for him to just do another project so close to his sound, sonically.”

That tracks. So, other artists have started making more music in that “Com Truise” style and calling it “Datawave” – and your new album “Wavefinder” definitely seems to fit that category. Was that intentional? what’s your take on that?

MAVS: “Don’t get me wrong, I love Seth’s work – and the idea wasn’t just to make something derivative… But we had just finished the Demin remixes, and…man, I really loved Demin’s track. I didn’t want to deviate too much in the remix… because I just liked the sound. I was curious about it. I had never done anything in the sort of “Datawave” space.

The last couple records I’ve been working on have also been masted by Ben Braun – Hotel Pools. I’m a big fan of his music. So, I started listening to a lot more chillsynth… and one of the things I thought was really interesting about it is that the tempos are way slower… I started to think about the fact that it really took my back to my roots-roots. Like, as a kid, finding Autechre… you know, all those guys were Hip Hop guys. And I feel like, chillsynth, datawave, these kinds of artists have a similar root. They have one foot in that genre – that kind of “head nod” feeling. There’s something appealing about that.

So no, it wasn’t like, “Hey this sounds like datawave” – that was the last thing on my mind. It was more that I just enjoyed going back…so I thought, “How can we slow this down even more?” And then the when you slow things down, the resolution gets a little wider. So you can suddenly like, bit more, you know, interesting things and have more interesting sort of syncopation happening musically.

So later on when I started to dig into the stuff Eric had sent me, it just seemed like the logical progression, like the place to go. You always want to do something that’s exciting to you – you know? And so in that moment, that was what was exciting.”

I also felt like there were some strong 90s references in “Wavefinder,” and you seemed to have really delved into the 90s vibes on “Emotion Engine” too. Was that move away from the 80’s intentional – or a sort of spontaneous occurrence like the “datawave” sound?

Sferro: “I will say that at least one, maybe two of the tracks were actually “Emotion Engine” outtakes I had sent over…but [in general, it does feel like a progression.] I definitely don’t want to do the typical synthwave stuff anymore. I’ve done that, beaten that to death. It just kind of felt right and it’s what seemed attractive to me: an early 2000s, late 90s kind of thing.

I don’t think the next Sferro album will be datawave though. I think “Wavefinder” is really awesome, and I think it’s awesome as a collaboration – but I don’t think I’ll explore that direction myself. It’s not the direction I want to go. I think I’m going to lean more heavily toward the early 2000s kinda… well, you’ll see in the new Hyperlinked Dream Sync album! It’s more like, Portishead-y.

“I definitely don’t want to do the typical synthwave stuff anymore. I’ve done that, beaten that to death. It just kind of felt right and it’s what seemed attractive to me: an early 2000s, late 90s kind of thing.” – Sferro

BUT, I do think datwave is awesome. The term is still kinda fresh to me… honestly I only recently heard of it when we started making [Wavefinder.]”

Eric, you’ve mentioned in interviews that your workflow is mostly digital – and Matt, you seem to mostly like analog – or as you like to say, “Play with the noodles.” Did those difference cause any conflict?

MAVS: “First of all, in spite of the room around me, I’m not an analog purist. Whatever works, you know? If you can make cool stuff in GarageBand, go for it. I’m not precious about that. What’s exciting to me is figuring out new ways to approach a workflow.

MAVS In His Studio

MAVS In His Studio

Anyway, Eric had sent me fully formed ideas… that I thought was really cool, I dug it. But, it was different that what I’m used to and I had to totally reorient my thought process. I had to come out of that comfort zone and be challenged a little bit by someone else’s thought process – sonically.”

It was awesome trying to experiment while still being reverent to it too. It was it was fun – I had a blast working on it!”

I’ve put out a lot of records, and when you go through that process, there’s always at least one thing that totally shits the bed….but with this one, none of that happened.”

Sferro: “That reminds me – at one point Matt was saying, “I think we need a couple songs in here without drums…” So I’d send some stuff over without drums… and then drums ended up on it. It just had to have it.”

MAVS: “Right? …Other times he would add stuff on the back end and send it back…. It was a total democracy the whole way through. We were just trying to make something that was exciting to the two of us.”

It sounds like perfect match! Was there anything that caused conflict? You know, caused some sort of problem?

MAVS: “The thing came together in a way that was the least forced, you know, like it, it all happened really fast, it all felt really good!”

Sferro: “That reminds me of one track in particular, I sent a demo over and said “Uh…I don’t know if this will work…. And Matt said “Never say never!” and then sent it back – and it sounded sick!”

MAVS: “Right? I gotta say… I’ve put out a lot of records, and when you go through that process, there’s always at least one thing that totally shits the bed. You’re forced to work with an artist you don’t want to work with, or you can’t release on a certain date, or there’s a huge backorder on vinyl…”

Right? Thanks Adele! 

MAVS + Sferro: *Laughter*

MAVS: “…but with this one, none of that happened. We went back and forth and thought, “Okay, we have an album here.” Then we sent it off to Ben Braun [Hotel Pools] to get it mastered, and that guy just knows how to make bass happen in ways that, well, I’m both comfortable and uncomfortable with! Then we started talking to Andrew from Stratford Court. Stratford Court was almost a shot in the dark… [I’m] a huge fan of the label. It’s so well curated. We waited a while, and then Andrew reached out and said he’d love to do it!”

And honestly, I was floored. I hadn’t sent it anywhere else, but I had a list of [labels]… I just figured you know, Stratford Court to me was like swinging for the fences…and there’s no preorder. It’s all ready to go on Friday.” [Today]

MAVS + Sferro Wavefinder Vinyl From Stratford Court Records

MAVS + Sferro Wavefinder Vinyl From Stratford Court Records

Sferro: “I really love how “into” the record [Andrew] seems. Every time he replies to an email he says how he’s like… ‘really excited about this.’ It’s so cool – it’s awesome!

I’m excited too – and not to spoil the review, but I really think this album is special. Do you two think you’ll be working together in the future?

MAVS: It’s funny with this record, this is the most PR I’ve done for a record in a long time. But I think it’s just because I’m proud of the thing we made, you know? I want to make sure that we do our due diligence to Stratford and present it to the world in the right way.

Really.. I’m just, I’m happy to make music. I’m happy to be able to process the all of the shit that’s happening around us through music…and I’m super happy to have somebody like Eric to collaborate with…

Sferro: “Likewise!”

MAVS: “…and to you know, to see it, see it go out into the world man. It’s all good at this point. So I’m just happy to be here.”

Sferro: “I mean, I have ideas for the future. Things I’ll bring up to Matt eventually, in due time.” *Laughs* But I’m just super stoked we got the opportunity to do this. Matt’s fucking awesome. He’s a super chill dude. I’ve loved his music forever. And it’s cool that some OG’s Got to work together. So… I’m stoked.

So perhaps this isn’t the end for this dangerous duo?

Sferro: “Never say never.”

 

Editors Note: There is so, so much more to this interview. Both MAVS and Sferro discussed their creative evolution, how they came to find electronic music and two kids stuck in Ohio, and how the digital age affects nostalgia, and their own approach when it comes to organic-feeling synthesis. For more of that, keep an eye out for my upcoming review of “Wavefinder” after it drops!

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With a shocking heist and car chase, the film blasts the viewer into the action. This doesn’t let up for the first ten minutes. At first, one may think that Jack Sholder’s The Hidden is just another 80s action flick. But after the cool down from the initial scene, one realizes one has also entered the realm of sci-fi horror.

After helming the slashers Alone in the Dark and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, director Jack Sholder shifted genres. Combining buddy cop action, dry humor, and an intergalactic twist, he gave New Line Cinema a modest box office success that most critics at the time received favorably. What makes The Hidden stand out from the other alien body-horror thrillers of the time is the script’s reflection on what humanity is and should be. It contrasts hedonism with the desire for connection with others, particularly through family.

Sholder could not properly handle the theme without the effort of the actors. After the exciting opening on the Los Angeles streets, we see the realistic camaraderie at LAPD headquarters. With the banter back and forth, one can tell that the officers truly care for each other. The atmosphere may seem stereotypical in the context of a wake of other police procedurals. We start with the sarcastic hysterics of the lieutenant as he deals with the FBI involvement. Yet, Sholder employs humor, which he sprinkles throughout the film, that is not over-the-top unlike the action. This keeps the officers dealing with the mysterious body-hopping threat looking competent rather than buffoonish.

The best interactions are between the two main investigators, Det. Thomas Beck (Michael Nouri) and FBI Special Agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan). Nouri portrays a tough officer who wants to do what it takes to stop the ongoing mayhem but hates being out of the loop. Still, despite his somewhat gruff demeanor, the film eventually reveals a tender love for his wife and daughter. MacLachlan is the individual standout performer. He must play Gallagher with a mysterious, alien air who seemingly has dropped out of nowhere into the investigation. Gallagher shows a naïve honesty that is still hiding that he knows more than he’s letting on. This leads to funny snippets of dialogue as police partners.

It also leads to touching scenes such as when Beck invites Gallagher to his home for dinner. We see a sweet awkwardness as he takes sense of his surroundings and tries to engage with the Becks. We also note there must be a tragic backstory for Gallagher as he observes their daughter. It’s no wonder that David Lynch would later select him to portray Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks.

Although the spotlight is on Beck and Gallagher, the pursuit itself would fall flat without a memorable antagonist. This could go quickly awry as the antagonist is an alien parasite controlling human hosts. The actors portraying the human hosts thus must be both individualized but also display a similar nonchalant attitude to the host body and others. They also need to exhibit a wonder at some of the more materialistic and tawdry aspects of humanity. All the possessed characters manifest this to degrees of success. However, the standouts are Jonathan Miller (William Boyett) and Brenda Lee Van Buren (Claudia Christian). Miller steals the show as an unhealthy middle-aged man pursuing whatever he sees. It’s like the id run rampant. Brenda stuns as an exotic dancer turned Terminator-like being. She engages the duo in both another thrilling car chase and following shoot-out.

This brings us to what most will likely view as the crowd-drawing aspect of the feature: the action. As mentioned before, the film immediately starts with a shocking heist and chase. Sholder decides to go from grainy bank security cam footage to a short transition to bright, sunny L.A. streets. He follows this with stunning shots of the fleeing Ferrari as it recklessly terrorizes the city streets. Throughout the film, there is further interesting focus on vehicles, including Gallagher’s equally eye-catching Porsche. This, combined with the ambulatory mayhem the alien forces its hosts to commit, leaves the audience little time to relax.

However, the quiet moments do allow for the audience to catch their breath. It’s during these moments that I believe that Sholder wants to contemplate the underlying theme. That theme is revolves around what it means to lead a fulfilling life as a human. The antagonistic alien parasite shows what happens when selfishness takes control. It not only destroys others, but it damages the host beyond repair. Gallagher, however, shows concerns for Beck and his family though they are new acquaintances. The thought is to choose to see what is more important: human connection or the pursuit of heedless desires.

The only gripe that I have is with parts of the score. There are stretches of beauty, particularly during the interaction of Gallagher with Beck’s family. However, the synth work often feels tinny. This is not a solitary problem with this film. From the late 80s to the early 90s, a lot of synth scores sound hollow compared to earlier in the 80s. Perhaps, it’s due to the shift from analog to digital. However, it can be distracting. Fortunately, the “alien” nature of the plot occasionally complements the dissonance. It would just be better if the keys had a richer tone. The soundtrack, on the other hand, plainly rocks. Special props to The Truth and the title track “Hidden.”

New Line Cinema was fortunate to have The Hidden in its roster of films. Being “the house that Freddy built,” there’s little that holds up outside of cult status during the studio’s early years. There’s the Nightmare and Critters series, and even those had some duds. With its thrilling set-pieces, atmospheric L.A. location, and interesting character interaction, this thematic but not pretentious genre-mesh deserves greater visibility.

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