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The recent release of “Fragments” finally put David Andrew Wiebe back on the map as a recording artist.
In May 2016, Wiebe finally made a return with “Fragments”, a jazzy guitar instrumental. Fans were pleased to see Wiebe back at it after all these years.
Not content to sit still, Wiebe issued “City Lights” as his latest single on June 28, only a month after the release of his last single.
“Like ‘Fragments’, this is another instrumental”, Wiebe said, “but it’s decidedly different than the last. I was recently made aware of the Synthwave/Retrowave movement, which is basically a throwback to 80s soundtrack music.”
Synthwave originally emerged in the mid-2000s, but still has an engaged following today. FM-84’s Atlas, for example, was just released towards the end of April here in 2016, and is getting rave reviews.
“And it’s a great release,” noted Wiebe. “I am pretty hooked on this stuff right now, because it isn’t just ‘old music’ as you might assume. It’s more like modern music with a vintage flare, nodding at its predecessors, but looking to the future of possibilities.”
Wiebe even referred to synthpop and new wave as “some of the more exciting genres of the last 30 to 40 years.”
Wiebe’s discovery of Synthwave was almost accidental. He has a habit of listening to electronic mixes on YouTube while working, and one day YouTube automatically loaded up a Lazerhawk album after a separate mix had ended, and Wiebe intuitively recognized it as new music with a retro spin.
Brad Robinson from Cantabile noticed Wiebe’s YouTube activity and tweeted him saying:
— Brad @ Cantabile (@CantabileApp) May 13, 2016
It was thanks to this tweet that Wiebe finally became aware of what it was he was actually listening to.
“I tend to have 80s leanings as is, regardless of whether or not it’s something I’m trying for in my music,” said Wiebe. “When I began work on ‘City Lights’, it was clear that the Synthwave influence had seeped its way in, so I thought, why not? I might as well go with it.”
“City Lights” is indeed a Synthwave-inspired composition – which is oddly meta, since Synthwave was inspired by 80s soundtrack music, so this would make Wiebe’s release… New Synthwave? In any case, if the retro-inspired neon artwork doesn’t give it away, the music most certainly does.
“I wanted to make sure I was hitting the mark on the production side of things, so I did some research on what plugins to use. I was also deliberate about picking a Marshall type sound for the guitar, since Marshall amps were really everywhere in the late 70s and throughout the 80s. The only thing that maybe isn’t exactly 80s on the track is the drums, but that’s because I tried to achieve a balance of ‘mechanical’ to realistic.”
The single does feature a guitar solo at the midway point, a solo Eddie Van Halen himself could have hypothetically played, if the single had been a mainstream release from the 80s.
“Well, I don’t think I’m anywhere in the same league as Eddie, let alone the same stadium,” laughed Wiebe. “But I am a big Van Halen fan, and whatever I played on ‘City Lights’ was really just what the song demanded of me. Like I said, it isn’t really a stretch for me to create 80s style music, but in this case that’s exactly what I was after, so I wanted it to be authentic.”
But more than that, the centerpiece of the music is really the layered synth parts and sounds Wiebe meticulously composed and picked out. Moreover, guitar isn’t always a major focus with Synthwave music.
“The VST plugins were sometimes as temperamental as I would expect the real hardware synthesizers to be,” offered Wiebe. “I had to swap out some of the sounds during production because they refused to behave, but in the end I don’t think it took away from the intent of the song, and I got a good mix.”
Ultimately, anyone that lived through the 80s will instantly recognize “City Lights” as being a head nod to the past.
But does Wiebe fancy himself a Synthwave artist? Is this something he intends to pursue for the foreseeable future?
“Well, it’s a niche with a built-in audience, and that’s not something to ignore,” noted Wiebe. “But my new single [for July] is already in the works, and for better or for worse, it isn’t really Synthwave stylistically. More like power pop with a bit of prog thrown in for good measure.”
“But we’ll see how ‘City Lights’ is received, and I actually do have plans of doing more with the song. I certainly wouldn’t complain about making more music like this, because in a way it really is who I am and it isn’t far removed from my musical interests.”
“The way I see it, right now, the sky is the limit, so why not experiment? I’m just now getting back into recording. Every new single I put out can be something different. Nobody is breathing down my neck telling me what to do, so I can get a sense of what people like and maybe go in a particular direction if I see that there’s a need.”
Wiebe, as an artist, and as a fan of music, has a variety of different interests. While melodic rock/power pop remains a favorite of his, he has yet to announce a release that coincides with these particular genres. Perhaps, all in good time.
Wiebe’s “City Lights” is now available on the following reputable outlets:
Take a listen and let us know your thoughts!