One of the earliest retro synth acts, Dynatron offers listeners a moving and meditative experience across these five pieces, whether the opening “The Tristar” (at times reminiscent of Wendy Carlos’s most foreboding work), the pulsing, heavier-than-you-might-think “Contact” or the closing “The Unknown”, a piece that transcends genre boundaries and will appeal, as does the whole recording, to a variety of audiences.
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Sarah Zupko: Ital Tek’s Hollowed is perhaps the finest electronic album of 2016 in a year when electronic releases have been truly astounding. “Beyond Sight” is also one of the finest tracks on Hollowed, bettered only by the haunting choral work of “Redeemer”, which reminds me occasionally of Mozart’s Requiem. “Beyond Sight” exemplifies the Ital Tek aesthetic which emphasizes movement and direction and shows off the skills of a cerebral and accomplished creator who in another century would be a celebrated classical composer. [9/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: Kaytranada’s classic, echoing beats, driving bass, and retro synth sounds provide the perfect backdrop for Syd’s voice, a perfect balance of elegant and airy. The result is the epitome of cool and sexy. “You’re the One” bounces and slinks, goes modern and old-school, and begs to be danced to after a glass of something ice-cold and smooth. Few songs really need an extended mix, but this song should keep going on for as long as possible. [9/10]
Adriane Pontecorvo: There’s nothing surprising and everything refreshing about “Play God”, a demand for reproductive freedom for women in which Ani DiFranco refuses to be nice about trying to hold on to her rights as a human being. “You don’t get to play God, man / I do,” she sings, her voice full of cool control. It’s a line that hits hard, especially among DiFranco’s personal stories of taking responsibility for herself. The melody itself is a jazzy vehicle for DiFranco’s message, letting her words take the spotlight while not adding much to the song itself. A brief, understated chorus of women’s voices lends extra drama and tension, but the words here are much more important than the music. [7/10]
Detroit quintet Handgrenades are on the cusp of releasing their sophomore album, and song for song, it’s one of the strongest underground indie rock releases of the year. In some ways, Tunnels is more an alternate debut album than a successor to 2012’s The Morning After. There’s a new lineup, with singer-songwriters Nick Chevillet and Andrew Pawelski and drummer Joby Kaslowski joined by fellow songwriter Jesse Shepherd-Bates and keyboardist Joel Sanders. Largely absent are the prior album’s Motown and Beatles emulations, traded in for a more nuanced and esoteric approach influenced by the likes of Radiohead, the National, Jeff Buckley, and Ryan Adams (one song even lifts an Adams lyric). Reflecting the change, the band has nixed the “the” prefacing their name and have ceased capitalizing the “G” as well.