'agents of s.w.e.a.t'
Best track: rage of the tiger
click album cover to listen
What’s up?! PGF here to review the upcoming collaborative release 'Agents Of S.W.E.A.T' by Team Sweatwave. This is genuinely an honour to be writing a review for this long awaited collection of tracks by some of the scenes most recognisable names mucking in together to create something out of the ordinary. I remember this project being in talks around a year or two ago on a synthwave Discord server and ever since I’ve been raring to see what they come up with. Team Sweatwave is Turbo Knight, Yoru, Polemic Heart, Dimi Kaye and Gryff so without further ado, let’s see what it’s all about shall we!?
I’m kicking off with track one ’Limber Up!’ and right from the top of the tin, 'Mandi Mae' introduces us to what this album is all about with cool, old school aerobics instruction! TEAM SWEATWAVE engage! This track features soaring leads and a balanced mix of guitars and synthesisers that run deep. It’s really quite a three dimensional mix with the midrange full to the brim but still transparent and poppin’! We get a respite from the sweat work and told to breathe for a moment before dropping back in to the energetic beat that will no doubt get you boppin’ along. Just a quick disclaimer (I am not exercising along, I would make far too many spelling mistakes and this is purely professional). Next track, switch!
‘King and Queen’ inserted. Filtered synths and effortless lead guitar runs guide us into a driving, anthemic, heavy but melodic hook. That’s the unmistakeable voice of 'Polemic Heart', I’ve been a fan of his for a while because has such a unique voice and his lyrics are always full to the brim with creativity - this track is no exception to that sentiment. Mix-wise the track goes hard on the retro saturation, kinda giving the impression of over-compression at times with the upper midrange getting a bit scratchy but never the less, the guitar solo provides the shreddy goodness and the track ends on an open, unresolved cadence leaving me wanting more!
My ears are lit on fire as ‘Rage of the Tiger’ sears its way through to my brain. The filter sweeping guitars are nothing short of eargasmic. What’s that sound?! Here comes 'Gryff' making his presence known with that instantly recognisable tone, giving me the get up and go I need to work out quarantine style! Lined with gorgeous harmonies, his performance is full of energy and his lyrics are empowering with lines such as “I got the fight of a tiger” and “I’m the only one.” Overall I love the open sound of the mix but there’s something small that grabbed me and that was the envelope used for the synth chords because it’s just so audibly pleasing. Oh! How can I forget the tiger sound effects are just the icing on the cake, I’m a big fan.
‘Work It Out’ smashes through the wall with rousing poly synth stabs. The fast paced tempo raises the heartbeat and you just cannot help but nod your head along to the beat. Chant with me now, HAH! 'Polemic heart' is laying down the style with his rhythmical vocal placements and our main shredder 'Dimi Kaye' takes the backseat whilst the synth lead solo rips through the mix. Don’t get me wrong, there are still riffs chugging and punctuating in the background throughout the track. The claps are a bit dry sounding in places compared to the rest of the percussion but overall the mix in this track has a lot of clarity, everything is punchy and detailed. It’s easy to appreciate the instrumentation and creativity that has gone into making this track.
'Dimi' opens up ‘Strength, Speed, Suave’ with an arena sized riff, melodic and heavy with enough bite to transcend the genre-sphere into a multitude of different tastes. The only caveat is that you have to be totally and uncompromisingly rad as F**K. The montage feel and driven positivity of this track scoops you up and doesn’t let you go until it finishes. The searing legato and tantalising tapping solo’s that riddle this track at breakneck speeds are a testament to the shredding abilities of Dimi Kaye. While the craziness ensues, softer sounding square wave synths shine through the hard going mix which is a testament to the mixing job. As the track went on I found myself in an invigorated state thinking about how much I want to nail life when normality returns.
I’m ready for more so keep it coming ’Maximum Sweat’. Surefooted riffs and huge drums drenched in reverb give this track a powered punch to the fun receptors. Raise your cutoff for ultimate satisfaction and unveil the pristine percussion and synth lead solo’s that absolutely knock it out of the park! Being one of the shorter tracks on the record I think that about sums it up! I’m trying to keep an eye on my exclamation points but I just can’t help it!!!
Taking a slow approach to being with the album ‘finale’ ‘Pulling At My Dreams’ breaks into a funk laden percussive number. I thoroughly appreciate how much this track shakes up the album in the best possible way. We have rapped verses by a mystery rapper who absolutely kills it vibe-wise and gorgeous choruses by Polemic Heart singing his heart out. I could go on and listen to this track all day, the mix is incredible. Nice!
Onto the first of the four remixes and we’re treated to a remix of ‘King and Queen’ by 'Anders Enger Jensen' featuring none other than 'Espen Kraft' on vocals, quite possibly the YouTube king of retrowave. Here the track has been completely transformed into an alluring ballad. Hearing those vocals that we know so well, evocative spoken words a la Pet Shop Boys and glorious harmonies mixed in with the synth work. Everything on display is nothing short of stunning. Synths glide and strum along with a beautifully harmonic poise and they’re arranged in such a way that the mix is full to the brim with sparkling 80’s wonder. 'Mark Dee’s remix of 'Rage of the tiger' is entrancing, the drums are killer, you want big phat awesome tom fills? We’ve got ‘em here. The feel here is much more of a classic synthwave vibe, oozing with retro cool. The low end seeps out of the mix as the track returns to it’s home dimension somewhere out there in the neon soaked grid of life.
Next up is 'Francci’s remix of the punchy drop-tuned ‘Maximum Sweat’. Here the track has been slowed down for added oomph giving the guitars a heavier feel, sitting them into a nice and comfortable groove pocket. The kick and bass are absolutely huge sounding, bordering on being a bit too huge. While it’s a gigantic sounding track, it’s not as much of a departure in sound from the original as the other tracks have been so far. That’s nit picking but it still kicks ass and it more than earns it’s place.
Finally we have the 'Ultraboss' remix of ‘Work It Out’ and immediately the tone is set for the style he’s adopted which is a gritty, heavy soundscape with distorted bass crushing away and drums pushing the track. The synth bass sounds very organic like either a distorted extended range guitar or bass, which is a sound design gold star in my eyes - I just love the tone and how it cuts through the upper mids. While it’s a completely different take on the original I feel like the reverb overbears the mix at points and as a result the low mids become a little unclear, but the solos are absolutely phenomenal which is no surprise from PJ, the creator of shredwave. The track comes to an abrupt end and that wraps up the remix section and marks the end of the album!
So by now you should know that I’ve done away with scores because to me it all boils down to one simple notion. Is this record worth your time and hard earned money? And to that I say hell to the YES, it’s absolutely clear how much effort has gone into creating this record, the track lengths are snappy and to the point. Each track is arranged to perfection and it’s clear that everyone involved has made sure that the final result consists of strictly peak performances. From the synths to the vocals and the guitars, all your favourite wave artists are here on top form. As a concept album, it stayed true to the energetic sonic demands that you’d associate with an 80’s themed aerobics foray and then some.
Team Sweatwave have done a fantastic job of incorporating the whole synthwave ethos that is taking an old sound and transforming it with modern production techniques, bringing it bang up to date. Just as constructive criticism, I feel like there were minor mix inconsistencies with regards to dynamic range. One or two tracks sounded slightly over-compressed but others were nailed, capturing the energy but staying open and dynamic. The remixes are an added bonus breaking away from the album’s overall themes that transform the release into an utterly enjoyable and diverse listening experience for lovers of wave, but also a dream for playlist curators. Positive, ecstatic and rip roaring fun, Agents Of S.W.E.A.T is a must buy for fans of wave music.
a visual representation of the album:
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