Airwaves Spectacular – Sinemadik – Album Review
Back already with a new record, Baltimore MD’s own Airwaves Spectacular have officially released their latest offering early on in 2019 for us all – the Sinemadik experience is here! Really dig what this band comes up with…I remember having great things to say about’em last time around with their music in reviewing the Light The Sea album in 2018 & I’m stoked to hear what they’re up to now…let’s push play!
LOVE IT. Proving you never know what to expect, listen to how “Felidae” charges-up and then breaks into a smooth & sly, nearly slow-funk/experimental groove as Sinemadik begins. You tell me if you can get to the 1:25 mark and not feel the adventurous spirit in this music & band! There’s definitely a progressive-influenced thread that runs through the writing & sound of this first tune & the set to follow…and while that can often prove to be a lil’ bit difficult to sell to the ears & short attention spans of masses these days, I think the fact that what Airwaves Spectacular creates is quite often so different than what you normally hear out there right now, that imaginative ideas like these will land with listeners & find their audience. There’s a playful pop to the drums and bounce in the melody, a bit of a subtle near-reggae vibe that flows in & out, and a seriously unique vibe at work on this first cut. Dig the call & answer style of the vocals…a classic move, but a highly-effective one…you get that subtle line to start up a set in the verse, always followed by one that really goes after the melody even harder, with more expression. Interesting though, no doubt about it…if for nothing else besides the fact that it’s very unlike what else is out there right now, one way or the other, Airwaves Spectacular start Sinemadik with real potential to draw you in to listen to the rest to find out what other uniqueness can be discovered in the set.
“Call Waiting” has a bit of a Jazzy/Lounge feeling to it, coupled with a bit of the good ol’ Indie spirit in the mix in the vocalizations outside of the verses, which I thought came out excellent. Smooth beginning and unique contrasting textures that make the mix dynamically stand-out extremely well – like how the chill of the lead vocals comes through so relaxing in style & bold in sound, or how the raw-edge to the music rears its head every once in a while in a really smart stylistic switch in sound. They even got genuine phones ringin’ in the mix just to tie this idea together that much tighter for ya. Laid-back vibes reign supreme here…”Call Waiting” seems more than content to thrive in its overall combination of cool & chilled-out sound. Singer Kayla Rae adds a ton to this song with her fantastic vocals taking over mid-tune or so – she’s like a version of that exotic melody & tone you’d find in Esthero here. Loved the trumpets in the music surrounding her and the big giant sound that the drums came out with as well…put it to you this way…I was already pretty damn satisfied with “Call Waiting” before Kayla arrived – but after she got there, I almost couldn’t be satisfied without her! Like I said, she adds a ton to this song, but also to the dimensions of melody & soul that you’ll find in this band too. There’s a real sweetness that drives the sound of “Call Waiting” that I think a lot of people will dial in on.
You couldn’t possibly ignore the vibrant & wild electro hooks that Airwaves Spectacular come up with on “Target Obvious” – sound will literally burst from your speakers in the thick of this hook-laden tune. If you look at the list of influences, bands, & artists that Airwaves Spectacular draws inspiration from, you’ll notice a few key 80’s bands in the mix for sure…and “Target Obvious” definitely explores some of that terrain, while still also providing a whole ton of flashy sound that would snag the modern-day crowd. Vocals come out sounding as inspired as the music does on this tune…after a thorough listen to the record, I’d venture a guess that this cut likely stands-out as a single-worthy selection from the album to Airwaves Spectacular…and if it doesn’t, it probably should. I think they’ve got a real captivating song on their hands here with layers of clever vocals, brilliantly colorful sounds in the music, and big hooks in the chorus that are definitely catchy & have that sing-along potential for the people out there.
It’d be interesting to be on the inside of the dynamics of this band & how they work. I know Cyrus Keefer & Chris Tolentino are both responsible for the music and a large percentage of the vocals – but as confidently & capably as they can both sing, I’m almost surprised they don’t lean more on Kayla Rae’s uniqueness than they typically end up doing. Quite often, like on “Optical Light,” she’s more like a feature added to the background, which certainly works of course, she’s always going to sound great – but yeah…I suppose it seems like she’s got that extra spark that often brings these songs to life. Like listen to the moment she joins in on the duet through “A Place With No Doors” to follow and I think you’ll get exactly what I mean…the whole atmosphere springs to life surrounding them together. That being said, they all display their own strengths, and especially when combining them. Take the opening of “Optical Light” for example – that’s about as appealing & accessible as sound gets really – and the vocals that enter afterwards have an excellent mix of drama, personality, and theatrical inclinations – there’s a real performance to be found on this song. It’s got a heavier spirit & energy in its aura & atmosphere – but through the misty sounds of “Optical Light,” you’ll also find a really powerful & emotional chorus that fuels the heart of this song as well. Definitely a moving & memorable moment on the album – “Optical Light” actually shifts & transitions through a seriously impressive amount of sound, attitude, moods, and energy as it plays on; Airwaves Spectacular make it all happen flawlessly.
“A Place With No Doors” is all-around freakin’ brilliant…I wouldn’t take a single point away from this tune. It’s like a cross between The Cardigans, Stereolab, and something even crazier like The B-52’s for that added character; a lot of this tune is narrated like a story in a way, and sung beautifully throughout the rest…a really rad idea that works wonders here. This is where the art & playfulness kick-in here, but make no mistake, there’s a tight bass-groove to guide you along this one. Will everyone out there ‘get’ a track like “A Place With No Doors?” Probably not. That’s fine with me…I’d imagine it’s just as fine with Airwaves Spectacular…this is one of those fringe tunes that’s completely fun to make, fun to play, fun to explore and jam, to discover all kinds of additional weird & wild ways this tune can continually expand. Like, I’d play this every night live if I was Airwaves Spectacular…this could end up being a massive highlight for the endless creative freedom it celebrates…they could still take it anywhere from here – this might just be the recorded version we get in the meantime. I’ll say this…the further that this band seemed to reach out in terms of their ideas, I felt like the better the results were when it came to the songs on this record – “A Place With No Doors” with its charming ballroom vocal-sound like a suited-up Jim Morrison at the beginning, drifting into a more melodically-inclined duet to follow…and the eventual combination of narration/backing vocals together…I mean, that’s the cherry on top right there is what that is. There’s a lot of creative freedom & skill in Airwaves Spectacular, here on this tune, they flex both at all times and have a lil’ bit of fun with their music at the same time…I’m all about this cut.
And don’t get me wrong…while I never really know if it’s Chris or Cyrus singing any given tune on this record, they definitely do hold their own…my point has only ever been that the contrasting brightness & energy in the natural tone & melody that Kayla supplies always stands-out for all the right reasons, that’s all. But like, if you listen to the vocals on a cut like “Undiscovered,” there are certainly no issues and a highly interesting approach to be found…again, one that borrows from the Progressive Pop/Rock & Post-Punk scenes of the 80’s, but proudly…they own it, which is more than fine with me. And all that being said – face facts, those styles of music are still loaded with entirely relevant sounds for right now, like you’ll find on “Undiscovered.” I mean…look…anything with any kind of ‘progressive’ stamp or exploratory nature in sound is always going to be a tougher sell to the people at large – but again, facts are facts – what Airwaves Spectacular have come up with on “Undiscovered” also has multiple moments of sheer sonic brilliance that can’t be denied. Like, I get it…progressive ideas will often take you through a whole journey in sound & sometimes ya gotta wait patiently for your favorite part to come around again – but that’s the whole thing…first of all, love the journey just as much as reaching the ends you’re after – but secondly, the truth is that they ARE writing multiple parts per song that really make an impact. At the core of every one of these tunes are several moments listeners can really latch on to.
“When Spiders Cornered” was a highly interesting cut on this album for sure. I have my moments with the first verse…there’s a couple conflicting notes in the vocals that I’d say slightly hold it back from getting the full-maximum sweetness into the melody – BUT…I mean, we’re really talking slightly here…and it doesn’t take long at all for the added personality & charisma to take this whole vibe right over. Love the layers in the vocals overall, I think that’s a great idea…like I said, gotta watch those tones when everything gets combined early on, but from the moment that first verse is done I’d say it’s more than smooth sailing from there. It’s a complex melody-line, but a good one that’s worth smoothing right out if possible…and considering how many things have gone right for Airwaves Spectacular mix-wise, production-wise, and performance-wise so far, it’s pretty damn forgivable to find one tiny moment that might be able to be improved. Let’s not forget…I think this is Airwaves Spectacular’s third full-length record? Still early on in the band’s own timeline & evolution and there SHOULD be lots of room to grow – they’re well ahead of the game for the most-part and the ideas on “When Spiders Cornered” confirm it. I loved the light-funk guitars as the song plays on, I think the hooks continually get stronger, and ultimately, I think there are several great ideas from verse to chorus on this cut that make it massively entertaining & engaging from the lefts to the rights…like, there’s just a metric TON of personality in “When Spiders Cornered” and a whole lot of addictive energy in the melody that runs through it.
For the uniqueness in the beginning alone, “Summit Life” was also another huge standout…you can feel this low-end rhythm driven tune reaches for something different than any of the other cuts on Sinemadik have so far. I suppose it’s more guitar, bass, drums than you typically expect to find from Airwaves Spectacular in a sense…it’s the meat & potatoes of ingredients for the most part, but MAN do they come out sounding right into the groove on this cut! And who could blame them – this is absolutely wicked…kind of like a lower-key cousin to a track like “Restless” with Josh Homme & UNKLE – there’s an insatiably satisfying energy that slow-burns perfectly throughout “Summit Life.” I mean, obviously entirely different songs…but maybe you’ll get what I mean…it’s got that mix of incredible swagger in the vocals, seriously killer groove in the hooks of the music, and a great stomping beat to tap & dance along with…the energy of “Summit Life” cannot and WILL NOT be denied – you’ve been warned. It’s a ton of fun, all-around…that low-end bass-groove is just right on the money, the whispered lyricism and more amped-up vocals that come along with their collaboration of voices on the mic is massively effective as well…”Summit Life” moves and grooves with inspired sound from beginning to end. Vocals are perfect on this cut, no matter which layer you examine…a lot of that has to do with the way the energy & atmosphere of this song amps them up – believe me, it’ll amp YOU up too – “Summit Life” oozes cool from every pore of your speakers and should definitely be a strong candidate as a single released from this record as the gateway in for listeners out there…just sayin.’
“A Love Without Reason” examines the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of life, love, and relationships full-on…Kayla’s got a lot of soul in her spots on the mic, especially as the song transitions to its main hooks at the end. There’s a combination of bright sound in the mix and inspired moments on the vocals throughout…but there’s also kind of an odd melancholy spirit that seems to hang around this tune as well. Best way I can put it is that I certainly wouldn’t hate on it, wouldn’t turn it off…but I’m not sure I’d come away remembering this tune as much as some of the others over time…”A Love Without Reason” is like a great member of a supporting cast that you’ll always welcome back into the mix but struggle to recall the name of. I do however, think that “A Love Without Reason” also has one of the best transitions you’ll find on the album…right around that 2:45 mark, they’ll switch it up in the breakdown and ride the hooks to the end in a hypnotically rhythm roll to victory. SO…maybe the best way I can put it perhaps instead is that, “A Love Without Reason” might wander a bit more, might be a bit sleepier at times, but eventually, I think it also goes on to reveal a lot of what makes Airwaves Spectacular great.
Bursting from orchestral sounds opening “Pelicula” and into a remarkable set of musical hooks that are unbelievably well-constructed, written, and played – Airwaves Spectacular reach further creatively here and discover some truly fantastic melodies in the process. Like right around the 1:20-ish mark…that’s magical right there…the entire mix on this last cut is…the singers are involved, but more in whispers or floating through the background of this dreamy final tune…which, even for as short as it may be at just barely over two & a half-minutes long, might very well be one of my favorite cuts of the year so far. There’s something undeniably refreshing and stunningly artistic about the design, sound, and ambitions of “Pelicula” that are easily as interesting as they are entertaining and creative as they are compelling. I don’t know if they’ll love me or hate me for this last comment – but I almost have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that “Pelicula” is probably my favorite song on this record by a country mile. That’s not to say I wasn’t enjoying myself so far along the way throughout Sinemadik – clearly I have been – but the degree to which they raise the creativity, uniqueness, and stunning sound in this final song is breathtaking to say the very least. Absolutely brilliant tune…technically, there are a few words in there – but in a way, they’re really making this final statement on the album by using their vocals as instruments in the mix and complements to the surrounding melody in the remarkable music that comes with “Pelicula.” This was that real stand-out cut I was personally looking for from the band this time around, that undeniable breakthrough that proves they’ve still got a ton to offer listeners and a well of creativity to still explore within themselves. I think this last song will open a lot of doors for them and lead to even bigger things; there are definitely more epically adventurous & artistic moments in their future to follow and I’m still onboard as a fan & looking forward to where their music takes them.
Find out more about Airwaves Spectacular at their official website at: https://www.airwavesspectacular.com
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