SINESTAR – A Million Like Us

Synthpoppers Sinestar return with their blistering third album…

Since forming in 2011, Bristol-born Sinestar have released 3 EPs entitled I am the Rain (2012), Hope and Prey (2013), Running Home (2014) and single ‘The Same Way’.

Now, exhibiting a firm staying power with sights in mind, rising above expectations and going beyond any given boundaries, creative or otherwise, A Million Like Us, their third and very latest album, is potentially a nominee for one of the key releases of 2018 – and not to be missed. Simply put, it’s an iconic offering that is set to be a must listen for many electronic music enthusiasts; the fact it dips into so many areas mean that as an album, it rarely misses a trick. Yet the fact it’s so incredibly stylised suggests it’s completely original – the sum of the parts delivering a consistent and weighty offering – electronic through and through – with twelve, mostly standout, tracks.

Although very difficult to liken them to any one artist, such expansive layers within the compositions themselves open up a diverse mix of potential influence, and granted, there’s plenty of echoes ranging from classic Synth Britannia to 1990s club anthems and beyond, and if that isn’t diverse enough, then try the reggae inspired ‘Smiling On The Inside’ – from the vocal straight through to its reverberated beats, the influence tastes as strong as a good rum. Synth washes are subtle in the background and are just enough to give it the necessary wrapping for its electro environment. ‘Testify’ momentarily has a touch of Ultravox’s ‘Hymn’, and a splash of Erasure while ‘Train Of Broken Dreams’ hurtles along the tracks right into the noughties. And given that Peter Steer of Tenek fame has joined the project, there is of course some obvious DNA in the mix; no surprise that Peter’s input on guitar and backing vocals is superb.

The opener and title track ‘A Million Like Us’ introduces itself as a tuneful, contemporary singalong with expansive hints from the dancefloor. It issues its stamp of individuality by merging modern-day vocal experiments against the dry ice and strobes. Urging towards the even more contemporary is ‘Recognise Me’, a track that settles into a fairly sedate, yet pleasing pop effort, before the mid-section is suddenly a shimmering assemblage of sounds – there are many waves that fill the space, so much so you can almost hear this simplistic template reworked as an intricate orchestral piece.

Above the parapet dares to come the urgency of ‘Lie On Lie’; think edgy guitars and slightly sinister synth while ‘A Moment Of Silence,’ presents an illustration of some of the finest production, with its fluid, intelligent form and travelling spirit. So many aspects of this track interact brilliantly and are perfectly harmonised, be it the beautifully cultivated piano sound and the space it occupies in the mix; subtle but magical with just the right amount of gentle melancholy, or, the lift created with the electro punctuation. Then there’s the vocal interplay set into the electronic expanse, teamed with its hypnotic wash of guitar break – a pure sea of emotion. Overall, it creates a tenderness you can almost cradle.

Elements of ‘Sea Of Dreams’ could emerge straight from a relaxation CD with its iridescent passages of beauty. It’s an enchanting backdrop that rises out of the mist with shimmering swathes of light and a picking up of tidal pace. It’s not alone in that ‘The Reason’ ebbs and flows along similar lines, for those who appreciate the more sedate side of Sinestar’s personality.


‘A Second In Your Arms’ is another nod to the anthemic and contains traces of Tenek and Soft Cell while ‘The Preacher’ is nothing short of exhilarating. The formula fuses masses of energy with an athletic bassline, a big tuneful chorus – one of immense vitality – and once again, those effective vocal contrasts really come into play. Finally, being placed firmly in energetic mode brings us to ‘Erotic Hypnotica’ – it’s a statement track that’s upfront and dynamic, doing everything possible to raise the temperature. Essential grit adds to its tough exterior, courtesy of a hugely effective guitar underlay against a positive flurry of notes from the keyboard – yet another huge chorus and consistent beat that works to maximum effect.

Interestingly, there are by far more ‘A’ sides than ‘B’ sides on this album, leaving one rather spoilt for choice in terms of single selection. That said, ‘The Preacher’, ‘Erotic Hypnotica’ and ‘A Moment of Silence’ would surely be worthy contenders given they’re immensely discernible tracks.

It’s always a notable achievement when an artist can morph influences, styles, fashions and even decades, and in addition, do it so well that the result is both seamless and original. Arguably this is what A Million Like Us does best; the result – a colourful, if not blinding fusion of modern European electro-pop that fuses the melodic and the exhilarating electronic with a modernistic dance-ability that is surely worthy of any night spot on the block. Much to the band’s credit, there are many moments of unique vocal arrangements here that create celebrated climaxes; big choruses that resonate strongly with melody and eloquently coupled with subtle effect, creating some diverse dimensions and excellent juxtaposition. It’s an interesting mood board derived from a palette so obviously close to the heart – enthusiasts of the genre won’t be disappointed.

A Million Like Us is out now on Conzoom Records.

SINESTAR – Singularis Launch Event

Bristol synthpop outfit release their debut album…

Sinestar all hail from the Bristol area and got together in late 2011, formed from the ashes of Jagged. Their debut I Am The Rain EP was released at a launch party at The Tunnels, Bristol in early 2012 and two years on, they’re back there to launch their long awaited debut album, Singularis.

Joining them on an entertaining and value for money bill are Cornwall’s Low Tide Theory, whose debut album, The Big Sky, attracted much radio play in 2013, and also Analog Angel, whose latest release was the well received Pride EP, which also proved popular on the airwaves.

And it’s Analog Angel kicking things off tonight, their dark synth tones going down well. Singer John Brown has a languid and confident stage presence borne of many gigs both here and in Europe and a catchy new song, ‘Shout’, goes down well, which bodes well for a planned release of new material in a month or two. They finish to great applause with the radio friendly favourite, ‘We Won’t Walk Away’.

Low Tide Theory’s lighter, more commercial songs provide a good contrast and demonstrate the range of material under the synthpop banner. A poor sound balance and monitoring issues didn’t help but they turned things around with members of the crowd joining in with ‘We All Fall Down’ and ‘Crash’ to close their set.

So, both bands were an enjoyable hors d’oeuvres for the main course about to appear. When Sinestar hit the stage, it’s clear how much they’ve progressed from what was already a good live band in 2012. Support slots for Mesh in Europe have allowed them to hone their craft in front of large audiences and the result is a tight, confident band who make a great noise… the best combination of live synths, vocals, guitar, bass and drums this side of Ultravox. Singer Iain Brownlie prowls the stage, rarely still, confident with just the right amount of cockiness, knowing how good the band is, how good the songs are, and how well he can sing. And he’s not wrong. Songs like ‘Hope and Prey’, ‘Rise and Fall’ and ‘Butterflies’ all have soaring choruses many singers in the synthpop world would struggle with. They demand a good vocal range and he delivers every time. Poor onstage monitoring did mean a brief problem as he struggled to hear himself but that was dealt with quickly and it was business as usual.

Despite this being the official launch of Singularis, they took the opportunity to showcase two catchy new songs and both go down well; a good indicator of the rich vein of material the songwriting partnership of Brownlie and keyboard player Mark Trueman are still uncovering, as they carry on where they left off after completing the album.

Singularis features 14 tracks in all. What is very much a modern album starts off with a very traditional opener… an overture! ‘Chrysalis’ is a short instrumental purely designed to open up proceedings, using the same chord sequence as ‘Butterflies’, the final track on the album, to link the two and thematically open and close the album (and if you don’t know how a chrysalis and butterflies are linked, go and look it up now).

Next up, a reworking of the lead track from their first EP. The original masters of ‘I Am The Rain’ not being available, the band took the opportunity to go back and do it again. The result loses something of the raw, “5 guys setting up and playing” quality of the original but that’s balanced against a far clearer, more polished mix. This version of the track incidentally, has also been been remixed by Mesh’s Rich Silverthorn and made freely available for download on the web and is well worth picking up.

Tracks like ‘Cry Like You Mean It’, ‘Without Glory’ and ‘Locked From The Inside’, set the pattern – upbeat, nagging riffs, catchy choruses, plenty of electronics blended with traditional band elements. And blessed, in Iain Brownlie, with a singer who can really sing. His wide range is shown on the impressive ‘Rise and Fall’, a song which has received much acclaim, and which, in parts, sounds like a second singer is being used. Rare indeed.

‘Lived For’ appeared on their debut EP and sounds like it’s been remastered to fit in with the rest of the album… which it does, it’s a majestic track and it would have been a shame if it had been missed off. Likewise, ‘Hurricane’ from that EP is here too, albeit in the remixed version, courtesy of Tenek’s Geoff Pinckney.

The gritty Undisputed ‘King Of The Tragedy’ is similarly hook laden, featuring call and response vocals and raw guitar alongside the usual synth lines. This song is perhaps more representative of Sinestar live, a raw yet polished and powerful live experience which has impressed many over the last couple of years. It’s an aggressive track which leads into the album’s finale.

‘Butterflies’ closes the album and is already gaining a reputation as a bit of a show stopper. Unlike their other output, it’s a ballad, complete with arpeggiated piano chords, strings, close up vocals… and a one word chorus with a soaring vocal which literally takes off, supported by strings. And which puts the hairs up on the back of your neck. More than one person has told this reviewer they reach for a hankie for this one! So simple and yet stays in your head long after it’s finished.