Release Title: Kyoto Inferno / Mooncake
Release Date: 15 January 2021 (Kyoto Inferno) / 21 June (Mooncake single)
Length: 15min (Kyoto Inferno) / 2min 3s (Mooncake single)
Written by Yari Wildheart
India may be known for its trance music, but there is some great new music in the outrun/synthwave style that you can find if you look for it. Here at Cave Dweller Music, we cover this style from time to time, and it is my pleasure to present to you a duo of 2021 releases by RONIN, one of the many faces of Shezan Shaikh. Shaikh is an Indian composer, guitarist, producer, mixer, you name it – and he’s incredibly prolific.
He has composed for a wide variety of media before – film, tv, advertising – and even computer games such as the upcoming METEORA on Steam. He currently plays guitar in metal band Providence, and has previously played in another band called Sceptre. Suffice to say, he has a hell of a pedigree in composition, and in the metal & rock world, is a skilled guitarist too. So, when he became synthwave act RONIN, it was naturally going to be some very well-crafted music.
In 2021 RONIN has had two releases – January’s Kyoto Inferno EP which includes four tracks, and June’s Mooncake single consisting of one track. Mooncake was such a great little followup to Kyoto Inferno that we absolutely had to include it in our review. First up, though, let’s take a look at Kyoto Inferno.
Kyoto Inferno is four tracks of the cinematic kind of synthwave, releases of which tend to have driving beats, occasional vocal samples, and a typically John Carpenter-esque sound to them. They seek to create a particular sound & atmosphere owing to the faux-soundtrack concept. The Kyoto Inferno EP does have those elements but stands out among its peers because of the guitarwork throughout. This is synthwave with hints of metal, and it is just such a wonderful blend that one cannot help but listen to the EP on loop for hours and hours.
Ragequit for instance features some traditional metal style shredding, particular in its second minute, which is the perfect accompaniment for this sound. This all occurs intermingled with an understated pop melody and a brief female vocal seemingly quoting the famous Dylan Thomas poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ with some well-placed repetition – ‘rage, rage, against the dying of the light’. A great track for a highway cruise or a contemplative emotional moment, a feature which is the hallmark of any good synthwave.
Illuminati Afterparty delves into a more dreamlike state, some chunky guitars and sleepy beats set to a female vocal sample singing sounds that add a melancholy sort of vibe to the track. Besides those, we have two versions of the title track – Kyoto Inferno feat. Shagun Trisal, and Kyoto Inferno feat. Sunneith Revankar and Shagun Trisal. There’s some more great guitarwork here in both tracks, with Shagun Trisal’s vocal appearance in the first version being well placed and cast, as he soars across the track, giving it that extra oomph that really makes it slap. The second version with Sunneith Revankar has a somewhat more distorted sound, with anguished growls and a bit more fuzz than the first version which sounds a little cleaner. Both are excellent tracks.
Five months after the Kyoto Inferno EP, RONIN released the single titled Mooncake. A short two minutes, it has a lo-fi sound with lots of fuzz, with some chill jazzy sounds, including the presence of a saxophone. Before long, however, RONIN’s guitars kick in, and we’re treated to some seriously chunky bass, the dirty pig kind whose every vibration is captivating. There’s a nice distortion and progression to this track, and the lo-fi sound really works with the blend of instruments and sounds here. This is a lot more chilled out than Kyoto Inferno, but still feels like it’s within the same world. It is an excellent companion piece to Kyoto Inferno.
RONIN is currently working on another EP as of this writing, and with the quality of those already released this year, the next is surely to be an absolute banger. Kyoto Inferno and Mooncake are some of the best synthwave you’ll hear this year, and RONIN is truly a great example of the sheer talent that Indian artistry can offer to the world. These releases add a nice metal influence to synthwave music and hopefully the next EP continues that trend. For now, we have two releases and they’re both top tier – treat yourself and listen to them.
I hope you enjoy Kyoto Inferno and Mooncake.
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