Album Review: United Simesky Institutes – ‘Nights of ’82’.

What makes some synthwave shine amongst others? It’s the love and attention it’s made with. And United Simesky Institutes makes synthwave retro-sonics and sumptuous sounds with a blissful abundance of both.

It shines through each track and each vibe. Every heady retro trick is dug up. Every touchstone and twist of those big vibrant 80’s, from arcades, to DeLoreans, to Maserati sunset strips, to VHS movie credits from sci-fi flicks long gone, they’re all gathered, re-crafted, re-sculpted. But these sounds aren’t just dug up and wrapped in new wrapping, they’re stitched up in curious new detail.

The title track could be anything from John Carpenter’s catalogue, or from an unheard and lost Visage album. The song mixes synth stabs and staccato hits with a sweet fluid sweep that flows through it. And if that sounds like the song has a grandness and scope, just hold on ‘til you hear it anew. With a backing and performance by Budapest Scoring Orchestra, all scored and arranged by Alex Simesky, the track becomes something that thrives. Violins add a depth with their heat and their husk, cellos add depth to the lows. And watching and an orchestra play synthwave in unison should give the meanest of geek-scalps a tingle.   

Elsewhere we head sinister, in ‘Networks of the East’, with a slow sense of bitter and menace. Or we lean to pure pop in an LA bound slipstream with ‘Sim 1’ that hits 8-bit and glitch. But the parts that poke through, that best break all the moulds, are the parts that breathe easy and slow. ‘Melancholic Mullets’, a sequel of sorts (find the back catalogue for the injoke), is almost pure Phil Collins smooth. If there’s something in the air tonight and you’re reading this, it’s the soft and cool vibe of this song.

So once we’ve hit neon prog, and every other loving throwback in this Petshop-Genesis Pocket-Calculator smorgasbord, we look back on the ride we’ve just taken. And what better closing track to accompany that reflection than the sugared and sweet ‘Optomimetic’. Made of synthlines that tug on every Sonic-playing 30-something, it’s the coda you didn’t know you needed. Worse and better than that it’s an earworm. It niggles like something you ought to remember but can’t find the tip of your tongue. Now all I can think of is a once heated argument between Janet Jackson and Sonic…

Nights Of ’82′ is a workout, a flexing of old worlds and new. For oldschool dreamwave junkies and Casio aficionados, you won’t find too much better than this.

And now, just to settle that argument…