A psychedelic press photo of Fire-Toolz’s Angel Marcloid, presented in a 2×2 grid.
Ten electronic acts will serve as the centerpiece of an eclectic extravaganza.
Tabbed as an “Underground electronic music and arts party,” Summer Synapse, taking place July 29 at the High Noon Saloon, is a welcome celebration of newer electronic music. The event was put together by Midwesthetic, an emerging local organization dedicated to creating “a live vaporwave & indie music/art scene based in Wisconsin.” The relative newness of Midwesthetic, not to mention the towering digitized ear of corn in the event’s promotional art, gives the proceedings a charming air of mystery. Boasting a range of nationally-based—along with at least two locally-based—acts, Summer Synapse seems set to be a rare, decidedly eccentric showcase.
Fire-Toolz, the project of Chicago-based Angel Marcloid, coaxes eccentricity out of the unlikely bridges between black metal and melancholic electro-ambient pieces. In April, Fire-Toolz released I Am Upset Because I See Something That Is Not There., which expands upon the parameters of earlier work to more fully integrate hyper-pop and soft-rock influences. Intoxicating and occasionally mind-bending, the album’s another triumph for the project.
Luxury Elite is a Kentucky-based vaporwave act that also operates the label Fortune 500. Fashion Pop, Luxury Elite’s 2023 album, is an absorbing exercise that capitalizes on the distinctive tonal qualities of the synth sounds that dominated the ’80s and ’90s. There’s a lushness inherent to Luxury Elite’s work that can go a long way in an environment like Summer Synpase. Madison-based Lakewaves Trio—a project led by Graham Marlowe—will also be appearing at Summer Synapse, likely playing some cuts from the excellently-titled 2023 album Unlicensed Agricultural Products From The State Of Wisconsin: New Originals & Live Jams, Vol. 1. Feisty, dance-ready backbeats and a propulsive jazz influence serves as a compelling motor for Lakewaves Trio and will undoubtedly be another source of energy for Summer Synapse’s attendees.
Atlanta-based Jeff Cardinal’s VAPERROR last released an album in 2020, the sprightly Saccharine Synergy. Cardinal’s one of several artists performing at Summer Synapse whose work stretches across separate monikers. DJ Camgirl, another solo Cardinal project, released the single “Flawed Angel” in May. Both projects boast a winsome chiptune influence that puts a distinct mark on this particular version of vaporwave. Sound Market, an act hailing from St. Louis, should provide some stark intensity via their blend of trip-hop, ambient, noise, and EDM. “New Grave – 新しい墓 (Instrumental),” the band’s latest collaborative single (a joint effort with BOSEBY) is a stellar look at what Sound Market can offer. The project’s last dedicated album, 2020’s Ecoregions, is another brilliant run through a separate subset of electronic subgenres that’s still characterized by a tenacious, unflagging sense of energetic urgency.
Ahero, the project of Chicagoan Sam Bik, released the album Thunder And Rain at the end of June. Memorably described by an effusive Bandcamp purchaser as “atmospheric retro-wave,” Thunder And Rain showcases the tenderness of Ahero’s work (2021’s more minimalist-leaning Cloud Zero is a personal favorite that nicely retains that tenderness in its tempered sense of aggression.) It’s a distinctive quality that will pair nicely with Luxury Elite’s softer tones, while still carving out its own impact and identity. Two Wisconsinites, Layers Thompson (a producer here in Madison) and Dunzo Donalds (a Kenosha-based MC), will be operating in tandem. The pair’s February single, “Broken Shoes,” is a smooth, smart mix of retro rock-oriented sounds and thoughtful rapping. Layers Thompson and Dunzo Donalds’ pairing is an effective one and seems particularly well-suited to a live setting.
V4NGOE (a greater-DC area act), Simple Syrup (a project that operates out of Columbus, Ohio), and Yung Shiro (whose home base is Dayton, Ohio) are three more artists who toy with the parameters of vaporwave. V4NGOE’s 2022 album Loser’s Landslide is a surreal, occasionally serene work of electronic inventiveness and the same can be said for Simple Syrup’s Bloom, which was released last Friday. Again, while both are unified by atmosphere, the project’s respective approaches to achieving that atmosphere serves as an unmistakable differentiator. Yung Shiro’s primarily been posting livestreams of late, with the most recent being a benefit for The Trevor Project in an effort to help secure protections for the trans community. (And last year, Yung Shiro posted something of a collaborative effort that featured fellow Summer Synapse-r Luxury Elite.)
In addition to all of the music, there will be video projections from Madison-based visual artist Alex Jacobs, who operates under the WARM LIGHT moniker, for the majority of the sets. (Visual artist mingkurray was initially tapped to have some of their work featured as well, but has since had to drop out). A slate of vendors will be set up at Summer Synapse, including but not certainly not limited to Neon Pines Mall, First Class Collective, Shatterfoil Industries, and Revenaut Cassette Corporation. And if that’s not enough to pull prospective attendees further in, Summer Synapse is also promising “an assortment of freebies,” as well as “an inflatable cow and aesthetic photobooth.” Even if you’re only passively interested in electronic music, the price of Summer Synapse’s ticket for what the event’s offering is a steal: $15 in advance, $20 at the door. That’s a surprisingly low price for an event of this size, constituting an enticing opportunity worth seizing.
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