Review Summary: Casting off the shackles of the 80’s.
A passion for everything 80’s can only carry an entire genre so far, and synthwave/retrowave/outrun (genre tags are tricky) has very quickly run itself into the ground. In just a handful of years, artists have pretty thoroughly explored all of the destinations that listeners can be taken to. Perturbator and Carpenter Brut already have the dark dystopian future monopolized. Lazerhawk and Kavinsky already provide the hits for those who need more 80’s action movie training montages in their life. Miami Nights 1984 already provided the perfect soundtrack to driving along neon-lit city streets all the way from the seedy underbelly of the city through to empty beachside roads. Where does that leave Power Glove? The Melbourne-based duo entered the scene early in 2012 with a pastiche of montage-worthy synth cheese, coming in at a time before this approach was beaten to death. The duo next composed the soundtrack for Far Cry 3 – Blood Dragon, pushing this style further as those around them began to take note. However, in the two years that have elapsed since then, countless musicians with a hard-on for the 80’s have repeated the same experiments to the point of redundancy, leaving the duo with a simple choice; reinvent themselves, or fall in line with the masses releasing re-treads of the same album.
With EP II
, Power Glove have taken a step into the future and envisage the grime of seedy early 90’s clubs. There’s still a few rollicking synth lines backed by insistent percussive loops, but they’re carefully integrated into the tracks to avoid lighting up the murky atmosphere. ‘Motorcycle Cop’ is the shining example of this, nearly mirroring their older style but utilizing a far darker aesthetic, with warped vocal samples and eerie sirens ringing out deep in the mix. However, the most notable features aren’t the aspects they’ve retained; it’s the new angles they’re taking. The duo have taken a “less-is-more” approach to this EP, stripping back the layers significantly and focusing heavily on more mood-driven centrepieces. ‘E-240’ and ‘4am (The Fauns Remix)’ utilize crystalline vocal melodies alongside creeping synths, causing and quelling miniature anxiety attacks at every turn. They’ve incorporated elements of rnb and new jack swing within a far warmer framework, and it comes as a welcome respite from the menacing bangers on either side – ‘Punker’ with an insistent and intrusive core melody and ‘Motorcycle Cop’ bathing in retro glory. Maybe the latter could be seen as regression, appeasing the established fanbase with some 80’s shenanigans at the cost of sonic consistency. But really, it’s too damn fun to pin such a label on.
Roots so deeply ingrained in such a genre can be difficult to remove, and breaking the mold at all is a feat - but to step so far away and still create an engaging and diverse EP on unfamiliar ground, now that deserves praise. EP II
is an important blueprint for genre compatriots still stuck in the same rut, showing how to shake things up without abandoning the fans. For those growing tired of the blinding neon lights and reruns of Tron that synthwave rehashes to excess, this is a perfect reprieve.