Tommy ’86 – Frequency Modulations

Artist: Tommy ’86
Origin: Beavais, France
Album: Frequency Modulations
Label: Girlfriend Records (Cleveland, USA)

Inspiration is something that happens.  You don’t know when, why or how, it just happens.  And one day, around 4 years ago, Tommy ’86 had that moment.
After listening to a piece of music by ‘College’ the inspirational juices began to flow.  From there on we have had tracks like ‘Outrun’, my personal favourite, and the EP ‘High Fidelity’.
This artist has gone from strength-to-strength with his own work and remixes for others, with the level of quality not dipping once.  So, with Tommy ’86 releasing a long player are we allowed to expect the same?
Yes we are.

The first track is an announcement and not just by its title but by its style.  ‘The New Wave’ is fresh, its exciting and its different.  I was pleasantly surprised by it.  This record feels like it is actually launching a whole new wave of music.  In essence its a mixture of electro, synth-wave, chill-wave and acid, which infuse very well, creating something along the lines of a cruising sports car.  It is relaxed but there is an energy under the bonnet, bursting to get out.

A lot of that pent up energy is released with ‘Sonuvagun’.  The pace picks up and we are taken for a ride along the freeway, weaving through intermittent traffic.  With the top down and wind blowing through your hair you are treated to what could easily pass as an 80’s movie title-track.  This really reminds me of ‘Outrun’ with its Streetfighter type ‘punch’ sound effects and synths, but this has a lot more edge.  Plus, with Dana Jean Pheonix adding the vocals are ears are spoilt for pleasure.

‘Lets Funk Tonight’ keeps the surprises coming with how versatile Tommy ’86 can be.  We are almost taken back to the late 70’s, with its slow tempo and disco sounds.  I get thoughts of ‘Grandmaster Flash’, et al, melding disco with rap and electro.  There are no lyrics but the music does enough talking.  One to have on in the background if you have company…

Moving on, not just with the music but a tenuous link to the title, ‘Globetrotter’ takes us on a musical journey, as Kraftwerk did before, with a distinctive tempo and certain relentlessness.  The track leads your mind through clouds, over ocean’s and past mountains to future cities.  Synths fade in and out as we hop from one city to another.  The record is a great companion, not just for long voyages but for journeys we can only make within our minds.

‘Vision Of The Future’ brings us back to reality with its melancholy feel.  Have you ever read ‘Nighteen Eighty-Four’ by George Orwell?  If not, then here is an interpretation of it in sound.  Has Tommy ’86 had a premonition of how strong ‘big brother’ can become?  Either way, there is a slight claustrophobic tone within this piece that unsettles, yet captivates.

‘Nocturnal Wanderings’ is a very short and sweet, interlude-type track.  It has a very likeable synth which almost makes me sad that the track is too short.

Now, if you had been one of the producers of ‘Miami Vice’, pre-season 5, and had access to a Delorean, flux-capacitor as standard, when Jan Hammer walked into the office and quit, what would you have done?  I know what I would have done.  I would have gone to the nearest drag strip, hit 88 miles an-hour and gone to the future in search of his replacement.  With a bit of luck, I would have found this artist as ‘The Night Of The Crime’ fits the bill perfectly for any edgy-police series.  It screams cool cops with nothing to loose, dripping in linen suits and Wayfarers with covers so tight even the big boss in New Jersey gives them a glowing reference.  Great track, best played under neon light.

Next up we have something very special in the form of ‘Why Did I Say Goodbye’.  From the slick and methodical production to the gorgeous and meaningful lyrics comes a track that will stay with us all for a very long time.  Sally Shapiro is featured here and has a voice to die for.  With Tommy ’86 he has not overpowered the vocals, but created a platform for the artist to be remorseful as well as reflective.  Time is not lost when you listen to this piece of genius, your life is enlightened to how great music can sound.

From light to dark,  ‘The World Is Gonna End Today’ is as close to an apocalypse as I would like to get to, outside of watching The Terminator of course.  Which leads me to what I envisioned when listening, the birth of A.I.  With technology leading us to ‘needing’ A.I, to have a safer and easier existence, are we being led on a path to oblivion?  Maybe that is what we are being given a taster of here.  Let’s just hope that Sarah Connor can keep her unborn son safe, as I am not sure I would feel at ease with computers running the world.

‘Frequency Modulations’ is an album with various influences and has used them to fantastic effect.  This is an album that has so many takes on electronica, as well as on emotions.  And the final track of the same title goes out on a real high.  This truly is an epic; over eleven minutes of synth-bliss without barely coming up for air, gifted to us.  I sense a great deal of effort and energy went into the creation of this track, and boy does it pay off.  This is the encore.  Just over half way through, the track is stripped back and it takes a more solemn route, where you have time to reflect on how beautiful this record really is.  Even putting it on loop cannot be questioned.

And this is the overall feel for the album.  I could play it over and over without getting tired of it.  Its diversity pays off and really puts the artist on another level.  Evolution happens when something wants to better itself, and that is what I have witnessed here on a musical level.

Up until now I have been a fan, I have enjoyed following Tommy ’86 and what he does.  Now, like you, I am also  longing for more.