Synthwave. Synthpop. Darkwave. Retrowave. Call it what you may, all that matters is that George Pappas better known as Alien Skin – a former member of Real Life, the Australian synthesizer band that topped the 80s charts with their million seller, Send Me An Angel – has been making some of the finest music within these genre confines for a very long time. What Alien Skin does well, is he has the ability to take the listener on a journey through each song, while also keeping his albums cohesive and a voyage of their own. His latest upcoming album, “NEGATIVE PLUS”, which is set for a January 2023 release maintains those qualities. It is brilliantly structured, and an excellent piece of electronic songcraft. Alien Skin’s latest album carries its influences heavily on its sleeve, but to great effect.
The production transitions nicely, weaving from one song to the next as Alien Skin’s extends his breadth of melodic twists. The dark and drenched feel of “NEGATIVE PLUS” breaks to illuminate in places, and keeps a steady pace that maintains its balance. The album definitely shows continued growth for Alien Skin. He maintains the nostalgic history of the ’80s but adds many personal flourishes.
Fans and any contemporary artists of the genre should look no further than this album as a blueprint for how to uniquely draw influence from peers and shift focus towards your own distinctiveness at the same time. It is a skill that Alien Skin has mastered for some time now. He has cautiously constructed this 14 track record to propel listeners into his immersive and cinematic sonic ether.
Spliced with his evocative crystalline analog synth riffs. Alien Skin’s nuanced mellifluous vocals add another layer of mystery to this emotional sonic world, complementing the ongoing aural head rush. The opening track “Charlotte and The Plague”, immediately lets you know what you are in for with echoed, haunting vocals backed by moody pads, familiar retro synths, and slapping percussion. “Your Death Kiss” picks up the pace but maintains the lingering darkness.
“Negative” thrives on a robotic beat, chugging bass synths and another intoxicating vocal display from Alien Skin. “Keep A Photo Of You”, is poignant, subtle and delicate in its execution, before the throbbing percussion and growling basslines of “Please Come Home” set in. Alien Skin does a great job of evolving the sounds of synthwave. “The Sedative Is Wearing Of” is a more nuanced yet vibrant statement, one that expands upon many of the ideas present in Alien Skin’s previous works.
The intricate walls of sound, soaring melodies and pummeling electronic percussion that have always been hallmarks of Alien Skin’s sound are augmented on songs like “Now Or Never”, “Without You”, “Something I Can’t Kill”, “Some Of Us Are Like This” and “Seriously Myriam”. Instead, on the opposite end of the spectrum, tracks like “A Song Fore Irene” and “Rachel’s Coming Home”, lean into Alien Skin’s more sensitive sounds with haunting ambiences. The album closes with the upbeat momentum of “The Moon Is Red”, ending the record on an extremely strong moment.
As expected from Alien Skin at this point, the production throughout the album “NEGATIVE PLUS” is almost flawless, with elaborate soundscapes, satisfying punch and crisp, along with imaginative mixes. Alien Skin carves out moments of sublime beauty, as well as majestic vibrancy. Few artists today can manipulate these sounds with the same authenticity and passion as Alien Skin.