2 Dec 2015

Cosmo Cocktail - Cosmotronic Racing [Full length] (2015, 30th Floor Records)

Oversaturated neon-nostalgia
Cosmo Cocktail's album comes courtesy of 30th Floor Records, a label dedicated to the synthwave genre. Though not a veteran per se, they were definitely one of the early movers within the scene to organize and release synthwave albums from independent artists. Cosmo Cocktail, based in Italy, prides himself on his use of hardware synths, sequencers and drum machines, and with good reason. With a morass of new artists emerging from the scene every day there's more than a few who rely solely on standardized VSTs and digital sequencer software, often resulting in an amateurish feel to otherwise groovy synths in a rude and entitled celebration of the fact that nowadays "anyone can make music".

Should you somehow be in doubt of what sort of music an artist with a striking alias like Cosmo Cocktail and an album title such as Cosmotronic Racing would compose, you needn't look further than the cover artwork and the tracklist itself. Complete with neon racecars and titles like "Neon Tokyo Nights", "Sunrise at 180MPH" and "Speedlove", there really can be no doubt as to the intentions of the artist. Rolling neon synths, pounding plastic drums and dark, exotic ambience is all part of the game. And game may well be the right wording in this context, because Cosmotronic Racing - apart from the fact that the title itself feels like it - sounds daringly close to the soundtracks of late eighties to early nineties arcade racing games!

"Cosmotronic Racing seems not like a quick grab for attention or success, it is far too sincere for that."

The Italian races down the nighttime highway, but rather than doing so in a proverbial Testarossa, Cosmotronic Racing drives more like a nice, unasuming black Honda. The album cuts through the night at a brisk pace, hinting at times to previous decades through token gestures to Tangerine Dream and Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack in the company of dubious drum types. Cosmotronic Racing seems not like a quick grab for attention or success, it is far too sincere for that. Rather, while engaging in every concievable cliché of the genre, the half-hour tour through the colourful eighties grasps at straws and hangs on by the skin of its teeth to find a foothold. There's the insisting speedway track, the cruisin' down the road track, the darker track - The only thing missing is the power-pop ballad.

With accomplished songwriters such as Mitch Murder, Dynatron, Power Glove and Lazerhawk dominating the scene, there's little room for mistake if you want to join the big leagues. Synthwave needs drive in order to not fall victim to the dreary and samey nature of simple electronic drums. Mitch Murder gets around it by adding a funky groove, Power Glove are masters of creating and breaking flow, Dynatron has great buildup and hooks. Cosmo Cocktail loses ground in all these fields. The album opener, "Speedlove", has a combination of the above to some degree, but sincerity and nostalgia aside Cosmotronic Racing feels rushed to the point of being a slew of good ideas thrown into the trunk of a car together with a drum machine, whereupon being transported through a minefield. 5/10 guitars.

1. Speedlove
2. Neon Tokyo Nights
3. Wangan Midnight Club
4. Cosmotronic Racing
5. Do Androids Dream of Electric Human Beings?
6. Sunrise at 180MPH
7. The Blackbird
8. The Bayshore Route

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