[2nd] December: TSTI – This Way (Inst. Version)

10841330_10153017701387573_344887033_n

To be honest I haven’t been monitoring the rapid success of TSTI for a while. I remember when he was in the process of releasing his debut-album, but after that he’s also released a follow-up and there’s more yet to come. Sometimes you just loose track of everything when you’re knee-deep into everything. There’s so much to keep your own eyes and ears open to and there’s so much really untalented junk which floats around on the internet—some of it which is received through e-mail that you don’t even open and send to the trash-bin right away—that you get lost, for real. Even though I know that many things are left unexplored, it’s hard to keep it close and actually have the time to listen through it. I’m hoping that my article will do justice to what I’m going to present to you in the end of it. Before that I need to go through what is unique with TSTI and why he’s featured in Ljudkalendern — the unnamed project which got a name, when the final artwork had been received. It’s really simple and is kind of catchy in Swedish but not in English, as it translates to: “Sound-calendar“. Therefore I’ve decided to keep the Swedish name.

R-4409773-1364135944-7132

We’re already in December and time flies by like it didn’t even care for us puny humans. Not that it ever does, because it’s not reversible, but sometimes you wish time would have mercy and be slow for once—not only when you’re doing something really dull. It has more to do with our perception than it has to do with time itself, I can understand and cope with that, but I wish I could just stop and reflect for a moment—which rarely, if ever, happens. TSTI have been releasing so many great tracks since the first release for this solo-project of his, originally intended to be a bedroom synthpop project, turned into a minor mammoth that just seems to go on and on… and on. I don’t really know if he stays true to what he once wanted for it, but that doesn’t make a difference for me anyway, the only difference that have been made is that he’s evolved really much. From a rather neatly placed synth-pop package with huge ambitions—turned upside down, making it an ambitious project extremely nicely packaged both in sound and aesthetics. His artwork follows a linear curve and the only thing different is the main focus point, which feature an industrial compound (Evaluated), as opposed to the Victorian setting on his debut-album (Evaluations). It will be exciting to see what’s going to happen in 2015 and if the aesthetics will follow the red line, or go past, above, away or beyond it. Because he’s releasing something new in the beginning of next year on Desire — and I’m thrilled about it.

R-6080196-1410549825-8888

So when I asked him if he would be interested in participating in a non-commercial collection that I was making, he surely was and gave away an instrumental version of a track featured on his forthcoming release. It never got onto the official release itself, so I thought—why not place it on Ljudkalendern? Said and done — now we had an agreement. It is my pleasure to introduce to you an instrumental version of the track “This Way“, taken from his coming album that will be out next year—2015. It’s a step away from what I was used to hearing on his debut-album, definitely with obvious leanings to electronic body music and industrial music, but also with contrasts like including a panpipe in an industrialized setting. Harsh beats, complex rhythms and a nicely woven melody which is supported by this bizarre instrument. A thoughtful song which doesn’t become less interesting than the fully vocalized original track. Before you go and listen to it, read my poem about it. Otherwise, if you’re not into poetry — here’s for December the 2nd and a brand new premiere on Ljudkalendern!

Metal pipes and ringing sounds,
working hard in our compounds
Hammer to metal, machines for humans,
benefited for all means

This is 2nd of December and for now the story is moving straight ahead, but we’re long from close to our final destination. Tomorrow a new song will be released and the story is to be built upon and continued. Until then, enjoy another exclusive song; “This Way” (Inst. Version), on Repartiseraren.

TSTI releases his first musicvideo ever!

TSTI is the product of an analog experience. We’re the listeners to his sounds and now he’s premiered a music-video for his song “In Loving Memory“, from his album “Evaluations“. Highways and cars seems to be the method you choose, when you want to venture down memory lane. Listen to his crisp and retro-sounding bombastic synth, hints of darkwave, concrete industrial – but do also adhere to his sincere singing and overall energy. If you didn’t already know, TSTI is from Schenectady, New York and his real name is S. Smith. Remember, you can buy his album, either as vinyl or CD over at Desire Records. You can also listen to his album down below.

The best releases of the year 2012! (Part I)

It’s been a very interesting year when it comes to music. There have been a great amount of releases that have been up there with the greatest of yesteryear. Since everybody seems to be doing these lists, I will join in on the fun and recommend you the best releases of this year. Some of those releases might’ve been what I’ve reviewed on this blog and some others might be releases that I haven’t reviewed yet. I think it’s fun to do these lists nevertheless and hope that you will be with me next year too, as I will be continuing with my quest to shine a light on good and unintentionally obscure gems that seem to be passing by in the speed of light, only getting picked up by the smaller blogs like mine and other blogs. I will also be doing other lists that will be turning up in the days ahead of us and I might actually do something “big” for a change, just to celebrate this year’s passing. Welcome to Part I which in an unorthodox manner, displays the four best releases of this year.

dalet-cover4. Various Artists – A Somatic Response

A compilation from the wonderful label Beläten. It’s been with me since many months back and was probably the first compilation that I ever reviewed. There is something interesting in the way the artists were compiled on this compilation, it seems like it took a long time for Thomas to sort them out and place them in the right spot. Rightfully so, it also made it a whole lot better and it felt like it had been worked on for quite some time. Even though the music at times might not have been what I expected, I could hear that it reeked of quality. There was basically nothing wrong with it and it was a suitable piece of art which hopefully will get what it deserves in the future. I think its one of the greatest compilations of this year and therefore its included in the first batch of the best releases. If you haven’t already heard it, I suggest you do. I would also like to quote a little bit from the review I did on it:

With a synthesizer brain, you can’t go insane.

solblot-fc3b6r-mig-finns-ingen-vc3a4rld3. Solblot – För Mig Finns Ingen Väg Från Hemmets Dörr

An adaptation of the wonderful poems that Verner Von Heidenstam wrote in the end of the 19th century. If anything, this album should be and is a part of Swedish cultural heritage. It also broadens the horizon of neofolk, since they’ve managed to put their own approach to the music and the genre as a whole. They’ve outdone themselves when it boils down to it, since they made a lot of variation in between the different song and it is noticeable that they have what it takes to put Sweden on that scene. I don’t think any other band in that particular genre (at least from Sweden) have managed to stay that original and still make it. The album is a milestone of their discography but also as a whole, it really enlightens the aspects that might be forgotten nowadays and heighten them to the max. Hopefully they’ll move on to create yet another album that can withstand the toll of time, as I certainly hope that this album will, because its a positive outreach and insight into both cultural and musical aspects of Sweden. I would like to quote a bit from my review of their album (unfortunately only in Swedish):

Jag hoppas att de tänker ta någon av de andra klassiska svenska dikterna och göra något av det, själv tror jag i mitt stilla sinne att Heidenstam hade varit väldigt stolt över detta om han hade levt bland oss idag. Ett riktigt bra album och förmodligen något man kommer att se tillbaka på, när Solblot cementerat sig själva ytterligare, och kunna kalla den för “en klassiker“.

2721236100-12. TSTI – Evaluations

One of the most original albums to be released this year. The throwback to the wonderful 80’s music that I love so much have also made a mark on TSTI. His latest album evaluations is a good reminder of how much greater some of the synth-pop and darkwave could be. It took me a while to find it and I even conducted an interview with him about his music. I also reviewed his album, which was a listening experience that actually could describe this year very well in every sense. He managed to pinpoint the exact things about this year, musically, that made it suck so hard. But there was always some sense of relief, even though there wasn’t much of it to begin with. His music takes out the best in me and riddles in nostalgia, which helps me remind myself of how things were before. Surely a milestone album when it comes to that genre and a very interesting addition to a pretty suffering style of genres. The analog dimension of it makes it even more worthwhile to listen to and I sincerely recommend it. I should also quote something from my review of it:

I love how the synths start sounding like dolphins communicating below surface, even though its almost a few seconds. I believe that is the essence of S. Smith, he can both be very complex at hand but when you think about it – he’s also managed to keep a basic edge to what he’s doing.

PRO002811. The Deadfly Ensemble – An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists

It’s not hard to realize why I chose this album. Since I’ve listened through it, I picked it up once again and started listening. Every time I listen to it, it blows my mind and it’s probably one of the most original albums I’ve heard in a very long time. I must also say that it was hard to review such a masterpiece, because you didn’t know where you should go and you didn’t know what to say. But I must say that I completely loved the theme of the album and I tried my hardest to describe it in a way that would be suitable. Nothing can really touch this, not even the release that is on second place in this review. The amount of quirkiness, the sincerity and the sheer complexity of the music at hand left me indecisive about including it into the list, just because it blows every other record out of the water. I would even go so far as to include an excerpt from my review of their album, which leaves nothing else to be said:

They’ve managed to fit in so many emotions into this and they’ve managed to actually keep the music alive, the lyrical content excellent and everything else top notch. Everyone involved with this have outdone themselves and I’d like to say that his is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. It absolutely smacks many other albums away from the first place and crowns itself.

Which, concludes this years (Part I) list of the best releases. I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Interview with TSTI!

TSTI is a bedroom artist who goes by the name of S. Smith, and produces wonderful electronica straight from the convenience of his own home. Mostly featuring an analogue approach to music, with loads of fascination for the 80’s and a lot of influences gathered from that particular decade. He describes his own music as “dark, hazy synthetic pop“, but generally indulges in whatever genre he seems to set his steps upon. Up until now, he’s released some demos, an earlier EP and has since the 12th of November released his latest addition to the family, an album which is titled “evaluations“. Since I reviewed his album earlier, I decided to step things up and ask him some questions about his music and everything in between. Make sure you read this piece and listen to his latest album which can be found at the bottom of this shorter interview.

You’ve currently released your latest album “evaluations” and I read somewhere that it took you ten months before it was completely done. What would you say have been the most fun with the creative process and what’s the hardest thing about it?

– Yes, I started this album right in the beginning of 2012 and finished writing, recording, mixing right around September. When I started, I had no idea it was going to be a full length, have a theme, or anything. I wanted to let the process happen organically. The most fun of the process is to hear the final product. I’m not a traditional song writer, I like to experiment until my experiments show me what a final product could look like, then I go from there. So some songs take a while for me and some are very fast. But it’s been a pleasure to do this on my own time and not stress about it. The hardest thing about it, I’d say is probably mixing, for many reasons. I’m not a professional so I can only do what I can do. I also don’t think a song is ever completed so when do you call it a day with it? Lastly, for me the mixing is a pretty long and pissed off process. I get very frustrated that I’m still working on a song I’ve already finished writing and recording. I want to move onto other things!

What do you think is the difference between your latest album and your earliest one? In what way have you made progress since then and what do you like about the both of them?

– The biggest difference is the first EP sucks, haha. The first EP was basically me being semi-happy with some songs. I didn’t really focus on the bigger picture on the EP, so they are almost like demo’s. The album is much more focused in all aspects, song writing, recoding, and behind one cohesive but dynamic product. Even though I put it together myself, I really wanted the new album to sound like a “real album.”

Don’t you think the task of being a musician can be overwhelming at times, I mean, you spend a lot of time creating your own music in your own room?

– It all depends on what kind of musician you are. For me, I don’t get too overwhelmed. I write pieces in my room during my spare time. I love having the option of running in and recording a melody I heard in my head real quick and then afterwards going on with my day. The most overwhelming process for me is trying to get down all my ideas before I loose them. I’m sure other musicians get overwhelmed about deadlines, “making it”, money, etc. I’m not worried about any of that. I just enjoy creating things.

I wonder what kind of reactions you’ve received on your latest album evaluations from different sources and how have people received your new album in general?

– So far… the people that have heard it and have responded to it, have been really positive about it. I’m sure some people heard it and didn’t like it as well, they just didn’t tell me. But overall and so far, I’m excited about the response.

There’s also an interesting aspect when it comes to your aesthetics, they seem to be bound to the traditional but also the minimalistic. Where have you sought out inspiration from for your covers and the general aesthetic nerve you have?

– For the cover of the album, I wanted to create something that was bold but minimal. I really enjoy early 80’s goth album covers and old 4AD albums and album art. I wanted to pretend the art was created during that time and not get overly fancy with it.

Do you have any favorite albums from the past that might’ve influenced you a little bit more than anything else from now or do you channel your influences from old to new, since you’re focused on the 80’s?

– Oh, so many good oldies! A few that instantly come to mind are Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration” Sister of Mercy’s “First Last and Always” and John Foxx’s “Metamatic”. I’m not sure I’m trying to “channel” them, but they where highly influential albums for me.

When it comes to the limited CD, how was the creative process in the making of it and what did you want your listeners to receive when you thought of making one?

– Well, both CD’s are limited. The first EP is called the “Black Envelope EP” it’s a hand made, hand painted and constructed package. The CD and art comes in a Black Envelope and each has a painted number. I wanted to treat this like an invitation to bigger things coming. For the new album “Evaluations”, I had professionally printed and hand numbered the sleeves. I made a limited run of these, but there might be some exciting news in the near future on more options. I wanted the listener to feel like they had solid album in their hands with this one.

Have you got any favorite blogs that you follow on a regular basis for finding new bands and artists or just for the general content of the blog themselves when it comes to music?

– Not really, I have a ton of them bookmarked that I enjoy but when I’m looking for new music I tend to go to hype machine, search a few artist and let the domino effect of finding blogs, talking about these artist, and checking out the other artists they are mentioning as well. I also use Soundcloud and Instagram to find a ton of really great and unsigned artists.

Since you’re mainly working with analogue equipment, what would you say is the benefit with it and what kind of gear do you have currently?

– The benefit is to a 100% the sound, the emotion it can create and endless possibilities you have with analog equipment, you can totally get lost in creating 1 sound for hours, how would that not be fun? I’m not into clicking and dragging to create sounds, no offense to any readers but it’s just not for me. Currently, I’m using a Moog Voyager, Roland SH-101, Roland Juno106, Roland TR-909 and then a Roland MC-909, which I mostly use as a master clock to sync everything. Throughout my songs you may hear other synths and live instruments though. I’m constantly trading and dabbling with other peoples stuff.

You’ve also got a lot of D.I.Y in you since you release the albums by yourself but have you ever thought of getting signed to a label for releases on vinyl? What have you got planned for the future and will we be seeing anything new next year or are you having any show in the next couple of months?

– Yes and Yes, more news in the near future.

What have you got planned for the future and will we be seeing anything new next year or are you having any show in the next couple of months?

– In the near future may be the question you just asked before. But in the meantime, I’m already 3 songs into the next release. It’s got a theme, a name and I’m really excited about it.

Thank you for letting me ask these questions and thank you for your participation!

– No, thank you! And thank you for taking the time to pay attention to my creations. It’s much appreciated.

Review: TSTI – evaluations

Pretty sharp, analogue and complex for being a bedroom project. Like a throwback from the wonderful 80’s. First song “In Loving Memory” is a wonderful example of what could be done with a little bit of synth-pop and dark wave, without a forced etiquette and instead of trying to push a false sense of genuine feelings. This is what happens when you combine the finest elements of both genres, and when you have put so much effort into the music that it stays afloat without doing a thing. There’s a sense of deepness in this song that provokes the most profound feelings from inside. A sense of loneliness and a sense of love, reeks out of the holes from the sound-scape. Unable to keep it in, it spreads throughout and just stays put on the edges as they touch you slowly but with much sincerity. The synths are a huge part of that experience, which goes from angelic to dreamy, back to the darker spheres in no time spent. I cannot grasp how a bedroom project could do such an impact, as I was expecting a much more amateurish and foolish approach to the wonders of those genres he’s involved with.

Needless to say, my expectations met their match, beyond my own grasp of the reality at hand. The slow-paced synths, the bombastic elements and the utter and sheer dedication that can be felt – have moved me inside and I’m not the same again. As for the next track “Queen of Swoons“, I can feel the more industrial-oriented rhythms and controlled environment that enrich the sound even more. A totally different track at hand, but with the same sympathetic vibe noticed within. I have a slight feeling of a totally new thing, but at the same time one or another remnant from times past. If Fad Gadget had combined his ingenuity with the synth-pop serenity of a band like Depeche Mode, put into a time-capsule and moved to the 00’s, their own brainchild would be TSTI. A weird sense of a predecessor being influenced by a progenitor, all mixed down into their counterparts, but also what doesn’t separate them. It’s like everything is falling to place, with immense speed and just leaving it up to me to decide how this wonderful piece of art should be described. Not being able to grasp it fully, not being able to describe it properly. But I surely want do my best. The third track “Pull The Animal’s Teeth Out“, begins with a rather heavy intro and is masked with a nice synth-line.

When I think about it, the vocals of S. Smith are both soothing and entrancing at the same time. The whole mood of the songs feels like something Andrew Eldritch would’ve put together if he was working with S. Smith. With that said, I think the utterly complex structure of the song deepens the mood of the sound-scape as a whole and surely grasps the 80’s melodic content by the balls. No, it’s not being castrated, but it’s being squeezed out and used as a resource for the wonderful path of laying both a concrete and emotional landscape of different harmonies, synths and the wonderfully arranged drums. Fourth track “Love & Truth” is about as minimalistic as its gotten on this album, a much harder edge to both the synths and the sound-scape at hand. Somewhat decorticated to fit the means of the analogue wonders that he is working with. It reminds me of the old-school EBM-styled beats that were prevalent in that genre in the 80’s but also later on in the 90’s. Not only the fixed and repetitive synths with an unorthodox touch to it, but also the more pop-oriented and dreamy synths that works like a wonder when combined with the vocals. As I move on to the fifth track, which is titled “Acquaintance“, the harder beats get even more room in the mix. It feels like a religious experience and it feels like Smith is opening the door for me and welcoming me into his adamant home. Whilst it at the same time feels sinister and include some damn fine synths that together produce this kind of sound-scape that feels like its about to fall down below because of the pressure on it.

The progression of it is totally out of my own realm, its as if he’s got a bunch of different alter-egos that sit with him and compose these songs. One where the darker side of him is allowed entry and one where the “lighter” side is inducing the sound-scape with a refined reality. Even though it very much feels like its a well-produced piece, at the same time it feels like something beyond the borders of music. I can sense a lot of hard and cold nostalgia revealing itself here. Sixth track “Match To Friendship” is enough industrial-influenced to make me spew out nuts and bolts. At times it feels like its borrowed from indie pop, but at the same time, there’s a harsher sense to the sound-scape than that. There are synths in this sound-scape that I wouldn’t hear anywhere else than in a great 80’s song and it feels like its built up by those synths. When I listen through it, again and again, I feel like he’s borrowed a lot of influences from genres that might not be that apparent. I feel like there’s a more commercial vibe to it, but on the other hand, I don’t believe that it would be accepted there. Much because of the hard-knocking beats and severe punishment you get to endure whilst listening to it. But it’s all worth it. However, when the seventh track comes on, there are a lot of things that are about to change. It’s titled “This Damage Is Magic” and it feels more like a knock away from a harsh newstyle EBM song than anything else.

Blend it with the finest you can get in future-pop, add up some nasty elements to it and you’ll have a hybrid of VNV Nation and something else. I’m not really sure what that would be, but it surely would be something angelic. I love how the synths start sounding like dolphins communicating below surface, even though its almost a few seconds. I believe that is the essence of S. Smith, he can both be very complex at hand but when you think about it – he’s also managed to keep a basic edge to what he’s doing. Now things get even more out of hand, as I tune in to the eighth song “Because You Told Me To“, which sounds like something the cat dragged in. I’m confused now, very confused. From a mighty synth-pop and extravagant dark wave album, to a techno-oriented house-hybrid? There’s a lot of 303 in this mix. I feel Acid House, but its not even close. However, he’s close to the 80’s, which is when it had its peak. But I don’t really know, I can’t really dig it. Even though the sound-scape is perfectly fine, the softer side of it is just so malplaced amongst this 303-vibe. Well, enough with this, now its time for the last track: “In Loving Memory (anti-707 mix)“, which is basically the first song but without a 707, which means “no drums for you, sucker“. Personally, I think this song doesn’t really take on the first song, but fine, it sounds pretty good anyway. I feel like there’s something missing and I feel like the drums should be there. However, this is one of the greatest albums of the 00’s (2000’s), that I’ve heard and I’m going to bookmark his bandcamp. Thank you for such a fantastic experience, never stop making art.

You can and should buy his limited edition CD over at bandcamp, but if you don’t want to, you could buy the digital download-only album. Do also listen to his album below.