Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Invading the Innerworld

Toronto-based band Electric Youth, consisting of Bronwyn Griffin on vocals, and Austin Garrick on synthesizer, drums (both songwriters), adopted a name that sounds commercially viable, yet vaguely familiar: meaning, for those who grew up during the late 80's understand the association with "Electric Youth" and teen-pop artist Debbie Gibson, serving as the title to her second studio album, as well as her short-lived fragrance. It's really hard to shake off that title by association.

Regardless of the band's choice of name and its origins, they have been reconstructing the paradigm of the EY origins and in turn, have become a credible source in the indie music scene. Perhaps their first initial taste of success was through their collaboration with French electronic musician, College. The result: the track "A Real Hero", which was heard predominantly throughout the 2011 Ryan Gosling vehicle, DRIVE.  Preceding this, the band released a number of excellent singles, the double sided "Right Back to You/Fade Away" in 2011, and "The Best Thing" in 2012. The aforementioned double-sided single was my first introduction to this mysterious, nostalgic synth-heavy band. These tracks were meticulously produced and executed, a sonic symphony of electronic joy. Griffin's vocals were designed for this type of production, almost too natural...one would question the validity of source. Nonetheless, something to get excited about and validate one's love for the love of music.

The months leading up to their full-length debut album, were a series of singles that were accompanied by visually striking, theatrical film-type poster artwork, in the vein of 80's gradient, cut & past, ghost text allure. "Innocence", the first official single off the record, followed by "Runaway", which were both heavily promoted on social media, perhaps led to my increased fascination and anticipation towards their full-length offering.

Released by home-grown label Last Gang Records at the end of September 2014, "INNERWORLD", was everything you can expect from a platter of modern synthwave: moody, atmospheric...a synthesized affair, that gently leads you by the hand during the opening pulse of "Before Life", before embarking on a journey with the hypnotic take-off of "Runaway", ultimately, yielding to a graceful let-go illustrated by the calming oceans of concluding track on the record (Outro). These film-score instrumental interludes breath live into the 12-track offering.

The production and synth-programming is flawless, and Griffin's vocals are a perfect accompaniment to the ethereal washes of this synth world, it was as if her vocals were custom made for this type of musical endeavor. One could draw comparisons, but the truth is that the collective of Electric Youth seems to stand on their own, as if they were merely just a forsaken relic of the synth-wave movement of the early-mid 80's and they have emerged from the ruins to claim their voice and contribution to that particular pop musical landscape.

Further evidence that they are perhaps well attuned with the aesthetics of 80's yesteryear, they commissioned English painter and member of Sniff 'n' the Tears, Paul Roberts, to execute the visual piece to their sonic platter. The painting, depicting a young Bronwyn Griffin and Austin Garrick, walk hand-in-hand, as if they are about to embark on a journey that evokes the kid-adventure films of the 80's (Goonies, Neverending Story). A wonderful visual compliment to the sounds and moods that permeate the INNERWORLD album.

With its evident pluses than minuses, this album should have put Electric Youth on the map. But for some reason or another, INNERWORLD did not achieve the breakthrough success that the album was destined to achieve. Lack of promotion? A weak record label to back it up? Whatever the circumstances might have been, one thing is for certain, this is an album that will ultimately be discovered and picked up by synth-loving aficionados within the years to come.

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