The Synthwave Radioshow
dana jean phoenix & powernerd
Best track: megawave
click album cover to listen
This short album, landing on the 24th April on 'outland recordings', feels like a summer release, especially coupled with the sunshine we're currently "enjoying" in London. Its' uplifting funk-pop, feel-good energy is just what we need right now, and is already my favourite release of the year because of it. Through it, Dana Jean Phoenix and Powernerd turn our quarantined current lives into a neon disco hurtling through cyberspace. 'Figure Me Out' sets the tone - Powernerd's production is on point, and towards the end Dana Jean Phoenix's trademark keytar duels with PN's Van Halen-esque slaying, until the track implodes on a high.
Next is my favourite cut on the album, the titular 'Megawave'. Its rhythmic latin style percussion reminds this reviewer of Miami Sound Machine, with tones of early Madonna. Dana's vocals sound absolutely great on this, smooth and optimistic and the lyrics are uplifting. I love how Dana adapts her vocal delivery to the production of each track, she's an absolute pro.
'Fight These Robots' has a Gaga-esque refrain, and a more than a nod to Daft Punk in the production. Some killer talkbox tops off this catchy-as-hell track, with knowingly kitsch sci-fi inspired lyrics. "Are you really gonna let me fight these robots by myself?" DJP challenges an unseen battle companion.
'Living Rent Free' has serious groove to it, and Powernerd deploys his Nile Rogers-riffing, before a nostalgic synth playfully improvs around the repeated vocal, lending a 70s era Stevie Wonder vibe.
The rhythm guitar riff in the chorus of 'Sunrise Stance' meanwhile, pays homage to both Estefan's 'The Rhythm is Gonna Get You', and The Jackson's 'Dont Stop Till You Get Enough'. Overall this is a gorgeous slice of french disco - hand claps and all with the deep beat high in the mix - with a Latin slice on the side.
'New Technology' shows Powernerd can strip it right back, allowing Dana's lyrical display to take centre stage. Arguably the weakest track on a very strong album, it remains a sophisticated and subtle little groove.
Next follow two remixes by two of the most plaudited producer/artists working right now. New Arcades confidently grasp 'Figure Me Out' - giving it a more overtly synthwave vibe and beautiful twinkly synth strokes, also used to great effect on recent hits by Ace Buchannon and All The Damn Vampires. It's also been given a more dancefloor ready break. You wouldnt expect any less than quality when it comes to New Arcades.
This is followed by a Straplocked remix of 'Fight These Robots' which - true to form - punches the cybersynth level up to 11. It gives the track a harder edge, and the song becomes less playful as it turns into a stomping futuresynth score.
Finally, rounding off the album is 'Moves Moves Moves' which growls, and paces like a panther - employing some awesome slap bass and showcasing Dana's versatile vocal once again; including a spoken callback to the concepts at the start of the album; that of being free and in charge of our own destinies. Plus a piece of hidden instruction (listen to the very end),
Of course these sentiments of self empowerment, betterment, and forging your own path, feel off-kilter with our current uncertain challenging reality...But I think that's precisely why it appeals to me.
The future is unwritten and we all need to make the best of this unsettling situation and create a new normal that makes the world a better - and funkier - place. If we can't believe that, we may as well give up now.
I thank DJP and Powernerd for gifting us the ability to dance like robotic disco nerds in our kitchens and bedrooms - and soundtracking our self-isolation with positivity while we wait to let loose on some dance-floor somewhere in the not too distant (cyber) future! 9/10 rob dyson
a visual representation of the album:
if you're in to this, you'll also like:
kristine, Lghtnng, mecha maiko, Primo the alien and Osc.