Alien Skin

European Electronic Cinema reviews


RANKED #6 in 'Top 10 Alternative Rock Albums of 2016' by MusicExistence magazine
The twelfth (sic) in a series of solo albums by former Real Life keyboardist, George Pappas, this album is for those of love-weary and frost-bitten hearts. The mostly synth-based drive focuses on starkly shifting euphoria and aloofness, each chorus enveloping the listener with continually stronger implementation. While inclusivity factor is gradual, it succeeds just as well, giving equally substantial clout to both male and female perspectives of relationship conflict. read original here

numberSTEREO STICKMAN  To begin as I mean to go on, it’s important to point out that what you get from this album, when you listen in full, is nothing short of a beautiful and thought provoking trip. From the initial few seconds of listening to June Is The Coldest Time, the sense of what this will all be about is as clear as it is unpredictable. These dream-like, abstract songs, which have been woven together with intense yet gentle synths, and a voice so soft that it haunts you, present an eclectic and evocative array of music that will leave you willingly addicted to what it is that the artist creates.

Alien Skin is the brain child of a man who is no stranger to creativity and musical expression. This album is a deeply beautiful collection of music that strongly deserves a real dedication to listening intently. Play it in the car, play it through headphones, play it among close friends – whatever the choice; play it loud, and let it change the way you feel for the better.

Unlike a lot of recent electronic albums of a similar sort of mood, the artist here appears to have taken every moment of every track as something crucial to the expression of the music. Each element has been specifically considered and chosen with a greatly unique approach, and so, the result is unlike anything you’ll have listened to lately.

I Love Art Deco, for example, opens up with these very gentle, electronic orchestra tones, which could be mistaken for sounds used elsewhere in music, until you really listen. The sounds are intensely beautiful, and genuinely, creatively new, and this is noticeable with every step you take through the project. The song that follows this introduction in I Love Art Deco is also one of great substance, the vocal surrounds and soaks into you, the effect of that melody is heightened by these delicately selected sounds, and so the overall effect is just outstanding.

To continue thinking about song writing, as opposed to musicality, All Tomorrow’s Cares is another one of outstanding substance. The music is all encompassing; if you’re listening, that’s all you’re doing right now. The experimental nature of these songs is pleasantly reminiscent at times of the song writing style of David Bowie, and on occasion, the mellow, less rap-heavy tracks from Faithless’ earlier days. But that’s about the start and the end of comparisons.

This music, this song in particular, is so gentle, and technically quite minimal, yet when you turn it up loud – a result enhanced by flawless production, a perfect mix, it has to be said – the whole soundscape takes over you. It’s hugely comforting, and simultaneously quite addictive. The kind of artistic, abstract piece of music that you can completely lose yourself to, escaping from your troubles and letting the sound guide you to somewhere far more peaceful.

Platinum Good Looks continues to highlight the skillful songwriting that exists alongside this expressive musical bliss. It’s unusual to find an album of this nature, that allows you drift off into your own little world, whilst at the same time leaving you with lyrics and melodies swirling around in your mind. It’s a fantastic combination of the two worlds, the two alternate results of effective music.

As you get further into the album, there are even moments of uplifting joy that come quite unexpectedly. Prettiest Flower takes things in a brand new direction, making it clear that this album is a journey, a series of events, within which any and all emotions are likely to be touched upon. Of course, the direction may vary, but even after just two or three tracks, this sound becomes familiar; that voice is hugely memorable, as is the overall style of this music. It’s highly likely that listeners will seek out further projects from Alien Skin after having indulged in this one.

Sterile In Blue offers a gorgeously jazz-like, soulful piece of music, with a wonderfully written song and vocal performance really bringing it to life. I Still Think Of You brings that industrial sounding beat into the mix, adding a certain, reflective darkness, appropriately accompanied by some very honest and fairly cutting lyrics. This track surrounds you with imagery that lasts much longer than the length of the song. There’s a strangely cinematic effect to the music, whereby the art of it stretches much further than what is audible. It’s a stunning effect, and of course, superbly relevant to the title and overall concept of the project.

Things get bumped up another notch for The Emporer’s Tram Girl. The rhythm is blissful, good vibes run out alongside the delicate darkness, and this darkness comes to a dreamy and gentle finish with the final track My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke). Perhaps an ode to the before mentioned artist of influence. Either way, this project is experimentally creative and exploratory at every single turn, and it’s a real pleasure to get into.

The album, European Electronic Cinema, comes out September 2nd – you’ll be able to purchase it via the Alien Skin Website, iTunes, and all the usual retail outlets. Stay updated over on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, and sign up to the artist’s mailing list via the Website for all the latest, plus some free music. A more than worthy way to enhance your day.

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numberNO MORE DIVISION  George Pappas aka Alien Skin has released a stunning amount of material in the last couple of years. If you haven't yet, check our reviews of his previous albums Creature with the Human Face and Winter On Mars. His latest is another full-length entitled European Electronic Cinema which contains ten tracks. Is it his best? It’s certainly arguable but  I actually prefer not to think of it like that. There are new songs with a slight different feel but Pappas holds on to the foundation that made his previous efforts his own in the first place.

There are still a lot of synths and the songs still have a slightly otherworldly, ethereal vibe to them, Pappas who I still think sounds like a combination of David Bowie and Scott Walker post-the drift does not cut any corners. The songs are fleshed out while still often feeling atmospheric. The songs feel as if they float away if it wasn’t for the percussion and his vocals.

The album opens with “June Is the Coldest Time” which combines a subdued beat with sine waves. There is a bit a dubstep vibe that reminded me of James Blake at times. There are some inventive sounds on this song. The nightmarish, processed vocals which sound as if they could be from your latest nightmare were simultaneously frightening and enjoyable in some way.

“Terror Ist” has an initial trip-hop vibe that gets augmented with filters of some sort which creates distinct patches of textures and tones. There is movement on this track but it still doesn't take over the atmosphere on the track. At one point Pappas does some speaking in a very Jarvis Cocker kind of way.

“All Tomorrow's Cares” is perhaps the closest Pappas will ever get to a smooth R&B feel. It’s a catchy jam in a lot of ways and was one of my personal favorites. “Prettiest Flower” is another song that despite the alien sounding synth is a catchy song at least in terms of the vocal melody. The chorus may have you singing along even though there are some dissonant synths which seems to be a couple semitones off from each other.

“The Emperor's Tram Girl” is a song that has a fuzzy bass and beat that drives the song. Cinematic swirls with pitch bends and chorus like effects eventually accompany the beat. He closes with “My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)”  which at some point submerges into a sea of sound that mimics what you might think of when transporting to an extraterrestrial planet.

Pappas doesn't overstay his welcome. At ten songs European Electronic Cinema feels just about perfect and is another addition to his unique sound.

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June Is the Coldest Time is a haunting, expansive track that immediately requires listeners to focus on each movement that Alien Skin includes. This bold gambit provides listeners with some semblance of where Alien Skin is going to go on his latest release. The sound of this first single is reminiscent of Spandau Ballet and The Smiths. Hints of electronic fuzz bring a bit more ambient and techno into the mix.

I Love Art Deco is one of our favorite tracks on European Electronic Cinema. The deliberate instrumentation on this cut provides a solid counterpoint for the more fancy-free vocals. An extended instrumental section to I Love Art Deco takes fans on an all-too-brief journey before the refreshed vocals begin again.

All Tomorrow’s Cares succeeds due to the smart production, which provides a layer of polish to the slower tempo and more laid-back synth and percussion found here. There is a glimmer of humanity that bubbles forth here that is obliterated on a great many albums.

I Still Think of You feels like the opening of a 1980s noir or love story. The instrumental/vocals dynamic allows two separate entities to mesh together at all the right points, making a single that is greater than the sum of the song’s constituent parts.

The Emporer’s Tram Girl has Alien Skin insert a bouncy, infectious beat into the track, giving the final section of European Electronic Cinema a considerable boost. My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke) is the last gasp of the album, but showcases an artist that can do more in a space less than three minutes than many performers could hope to do in thrice that. There are considerable shifts in the overall sound in this last composition, providing fans with an idea of where Alien Skin may take fans on subsequent releases.

Top Tracks: I Love Art Deco, June Is the Coldest Time

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numberTILTING WINDMILL STUDIOS  In this evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight we shine our gaze on Alien Skin, the moniker of the notably successful musician and songwriter, George Pappas. Prior to his solo work, Pappas was the keyboardist and co-songwriter for the Australian outfit Real Life. Their 1983 smash hit, ‘Send Me An Angel,’ is still a staple of radio playlists worldwide. In recent years, however, Pappas has embarked on a new sonic journey, and it’s a very fascinating one, too.

As Alien Skin, Pappas composes what he calls “songs and synthesizers” with “noir atmosphere, monochrome dreams, and experimental detours.” Surprisingly, his self-description is rather apt. His latest studio album, an effort entitled ‘European Electronic Cinema,’ is very much all of those peculiarities. It’s highly atmospheric, mysteriously eclectic, and highly experimental. Due out September 2, I have early access to the collection to review. Is it worth grabbing when it drops? For a certain audience, absolutely.

The introduction of the album, ‘June Is The Coldest Time,’ is an eclectic entity. It jam packs synthesizers and obscure lyricism together in a surprisingly elegant package. There aren’t just elements of electronic music at play. There’s a tinge of pop sensibility, a tiny bit of dance influence, and most certainly an avant garde appeal. ‘Terror Ist,’ for example, incorporates much heavier, thicker beats to explore a dance-esque soundscape.

As a vocalist, Pappas is quite suitable for these sort of tunes. He softly croons through each track with a bizarre, but enjoyable sense of oddity to his performance. If I was to draw comparisons, I’d argue Pappas’ Alien Skin is akin to perhaps the later, more contemporary work of John Cale. (Or even Laurie Anderson, Bryan Ferry, or the more recent ‘D.A.R.K’ band that includes members of The Cranberries and The Smiths.)

Speaking of Laurie Anderson, last year she went on a short tour that showcased one of her more recent projects as a multimedia show with a sublime display of lights and projections. One can’t help but feel that a similar approach would prove beneficial for Alien Skin as well. ‘I Love Art Deco,’ like many of these tracks, outlines fascinating aural and visual displays in one’s mind. The music is surreal; I’d be compelled to see how Pappas could approach it live.

As an industry veteran, I think Pappas has a fairly good hand on what to put on a record and what to omit. Typically indie albums of this length struggle in this regard - there are too many songs and not enough ideas to justify them. ‘European Electronic Cinema,’ however, doesn’t have that quality - or lack thereof. When one comes across tunes like ‘All Tomorrow’s Cares,’ they’re sucked into the experience that Pappas is crafting and it never drags.

There’s diversity within the collection as well - an important element that plays into its success as a broader creation. ‘Platinum Good Looks’ explores some sparse, but immensely effective synthesizer stylings that are a bit different than its predecessors. ‘Prettiest Flower’ then twists in another direction, offering one of the more compelling vocal performances on the record. It’s worth mentioning that Alien Skin’s new album comes out at the perfect time, because the band S U R V I V E has catapulted this musical style into the mainstream with their highly successful score to the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things.’ ‘European Electronic Cinema’ would likely appeal to the same audience that was floored by S U R V I V E this year.

‘Sterile in Blue’ is one of the finest tracks on the album. The composition is absolutely extraordinary. It’s captivating in every way, and Pappas’ sly poetic imagery supplements the sonic experience so heavily. I absolutely love Alien Skin’s production style. Despite having such depth in its productions, ‘European Electronic Cinema’ feels so accessible. ‘I Still Think of You,’ for example, is a haunting track that employs these ghostly, ethereal reverberations. It’s really an experience to enjoy.

‘The Emporer’s Tram Girl’ is an intriguing jaunt - a cinematic one that even employs some vocal samples. It’s likely the most avant garde track on the collection; Alien Skin pushes a boundary here to rather good effect. It’s somewhat eclipsed by ‘My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke),’ though. The finale, which seems to be a tribute to David Bowie, is superb. In fact, one might assess that ‘European Electronic Cinema’ toys with electronic compositions similarly to Bowie’s swansong, ‘Blackstar.’

This album is one of the best in its indie genre. ‘European Electronic Cinema’ is very much worth having on your radar at the beginning of September if this sub-genre of electronic and experimental music appeals to you. Right now, it’s being marketed as the final Alien Skin album. If that is indeed the case, it’s a fantastic send-off. One can only hope that Pappas moves onto exciting new pastures, though, if it is indeed his final album under the moniker. He still clearly has something to offer creatively.

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numberJAMSPHERE  Alien Skin is George Pappas, long-time keyboardist and co-songwriter with legendary Australian band Real Life who had a multi-million selling ’80s smash in “Send Me An Angel”, which still remains a regular on radio playlists worldwide. Emigrating to Australia from Greece at a very young age, Pappas eventually became a guitarist, serving apprenticeships in various local rock bands of the day, before the Post punk and especially synthesizers became the in thing.

His switch to all things electronic was consummated by the early 80s, the decisive influence being the electro modus operandi and songwriting of Gore/Wilder, version Depeche Mode.

Pappas’ alter-ego, Alien Skin saw the light in 2007, resulting in the release of the debut album – “Don’t Open Till Doomsday”. Eight albums have since been released, with the latest being 2016’s “European Electronic Cinema”. The instrumentals are soothing yet intense, often at the same time, on this new album.

This album is one of the most beautiful soundscapes I’ve heard in recent times, sounding somewhat like post-rock evolving to its most beautiful level possible. Even though this is only one guy, with an occasional extra instrument, it sounds bigger than your local philharmonic if it needs to. Not that Pappas needs to or wants to, as he keeps the music fairly spacious, dreamy and mellow.

Add those, oh-so-hypnotizing vocals to complete the sound, and it’s hard to listen to this album and not feel like you are not only listening to something entirely new and unworldly, but also in some entirely unfamiliar awe inspiring landscape.

While ambient or post-rock may be the closest label to try to fit on “European Electronic Cinema”, those terms ignores Alien Skin’s passion, rather easily accessible beauty, and even the vaguely catchy and melodic quality of some of the songs.  Pick your adjective: ethereal, enigmatic, sensuous, trancelike, alluring…any of those would fit the description of this music, but it wouldn’t nearly be enough though.

Yes, the overall feel of the music counts, but it’s you’re reaction to this music that truly defines the sound. How do you react to standouts like “June Is The Coldest Time”, the falling bass-synth induced, “I Love Art Deco” with its fantastic string arrangements, or the slowly building “Platinum Good Looks”, and then the mellow bounce of “Prettiest Flower”?

Alien Skin’s instrumentation is layered, yet relatively straightforward: The miracle of its impact is the otherworldly sound channeled through these instruments and into the ears, heart, and soul of the listener. This is particularly true on “Sterile in Blue” and “My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)”, where Alien Skin’s textural beauty is most affectingly showcased.

Alien Skin is incomparable in a playing field all of his own. No one is even approaching this type of musical expression in the current music scene that I can think of. The electronic music arrangements, effects and sounds, are key elements to the Alien Skin sound, but it is also true that George Pappas’ voice plays a vital role in enhancing and creating the music.

I can tell you that “European Electronic Cinema” is an evocative, emotional release that is warm at times, and melancholic at others, but with a universal genius readily apparent.

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numberRATED SOUND  Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema is the latest release from synthesizer genius, George Pappas. George was a member of the band Real Life of “Send Me An Angel” fame and made an important contribution to the sound of that band. However, it wasn’t until he struck out on is own that George started to forge an inspiring career under the guise of Alien Skin.

To this my shame, it wasn’t until earlier in the year that George Pappas and Alien skin came to my attention with the release of the excellent Winter on Mars. Regular readers will remember how I became a big fan of George from the review of Winter On Mars. That album was a tour de force of atmospheric beats, great melodies, composition and remarkably weird ambience. In a good way, of course.
Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema Review Songs

There is no doubt that George has created his own unique identity with his solo career. I’m happy to report that the latest release shows a logical progression of the sound and ideas developed over the course of Alien Skin’s career. Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema has been described as “Songs and Synthesizers: noir atmosphere, monochrome dreams & experimental detours”. I couldn’t argue with that description. Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema shows an artist with an abundance of ideas at the top of his game.

Whilst European Electronic Cinema can be categorised as an unmistakably “electronic” album, the music within is admirably eclectic and diverse. The discerning listener will be able to spot a wide range of influences and appreciate brilliant passages of originality on a trance-like trip through a brilliantly created world. To this end it’s a thought-provoking listen and demands intense attention for full appreciation.

1. June is the Coldest Time

The opener provides reassurance that Electronic European Cinema continues the general air of strangeness that defined Winter on Mars. June Is the Coldest Time starts with a pulsing beat and synthesizers that takes me back Jean Michel Jarre’s Zoolook album. The electro-trippy nature of the song allows just enough pop sensibility to make sure that it stays in your head long after you’ve finished listening. George Pappas plaintive vocals are hugely effective over an electronic riff that seems to fade into feedback with each loop.

2. Terror Ist

The title of Terror Ist together with the music brings an inevitable Kraftwerk comparison. However, the fact that the song gives more than a passing nod to Düsseldorf’s finest is no bad thing. This is European Electronic Cinema after all and this atmospheric effort would fit perfectly with any art house European feature from about 1975 right up to the present day. The music has a tripped-out groove and a kind of laid back funk edge that Krafwerk could never have pulled off. It’s worth mentioning again how good George’s singing is on this record. The vocals are natural and I always admire a singer who isn’t afraid to let some of their everyday accent into the music. I feel this brings authenticity to the music.

3. I Love Art Deco

The direct title of I Love Art Deco is exactly what it says it is: an appreciation of all things art deco. George lists his love of a number of features over another addictive, pulsing yet subtle electronic riff that rises and falls in volume and intensity. That’s not to say the song is simple, the music is orchestral in composition and shows a fragile beauty that few artists can deliver. I Love Art Deco showcases George Pappas excellent composition skills and gift for the offbeat and unexpected. Somehow George manages to combine these qualities into something highly melodic and pleasing to the ear, yet challenging at the same time. Like a lot of great music, repeated listening is rewarded with new layers of sound that you hadn’t noticed the first time.

4. All Tomorrow’s Cares

All Tomorrow’s Cares brings about a change of pace with a chilled-out, laid back almost listless quality. Initially, the track seems to lack any real momentum but give it time and it slowly seeps in to reveal hidden depths. Don’t be fooled by the initial minimalist feel of the song because the sound will soon suck you in. It serves as an interesting diversion, a kind of calm in the middle of the storm. As with all of the songs on the album, it is well-crafted and executed to perfection in terms of performance, arrangement and production.

5. Platinum Good Looks

Platinum Good Looks gives us another aural feast with George Pappas talent for utilising unusual rhythms and arrangements to create atmospheric melodic masterpieces. After All Tomorrow’s Cares takes us briefly back into the real world, Platinum Good Looks whisks us back to a gently swirling sonic landscape.

6. Prettiest Flower

Prettiest Flower takes us on another sonic journey around the imagination. It has the trademark strangeness that is so appealing about much of the music but takes the album in a new and weirdly happy direction. The wandering melodies lead us to a chorus that has real hook that any pop writer would kill for and the whole song hangs together very in a very satisfying manner.

7. Sterile in Blue

On an album consisting of nothing but highlights, Sterile in Blue is the stand out track for me. George Pappas composition skills are extraordinary in pulling together the different elements of the song. The results are a moody, subdued masterpiece. Influences from different genres echo throughout a song on which the spirit of the blues lurks in the shadows. It’s one of those songs where once you get to know it, you don’t want it to end.

8. I Still Think of You

The beautiful, haunting I Still Think of You features another faultless vocal performance from George. The mechanical beat and uncompromising narrative of the song bring about a dark atmosphere. Anyone who has experienced life can relate to the implications of the lyrics. Layered textures of synthesizers create an innovative and somewhat experimental melody. The track consolidates the albums identity and acts as a kind of counterpoint to Prettiest Flower.

9. The Emporer’s Tram Girl

Convention used to dictate that artists would bury the weakest song on the album in the second last track. That certainly isn’t the case here as Alien Skin deliver the astonishing The Emporer’s Tram Girl. A dangerously addictive electro-rhythm is driven along by a grooving bass line. The music grabs the attention immediately and doesn’t let go even after the track has ended. There is an energy and emotion to the track and yet it is kept under control by a firm discipline that demands repeat listening.

10. My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)

The influence of David Bowie could was apparent all over Alien Skin’s Winter on Mars and George Pappas ends European Electronic Cinema in fine style with this fitting tribute. Alien Skin’s trademark atmosphere is again to the fore on an emotional track that showcases a talented songwriter, composer and performer. A superb end to a fine record.
Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema Album Conclusion

By hitting “play” on European Electronic Cinema you are accepting an invitation. You are about to enter the imagination of George Pappas and access a fascinating world. The feeling is very similar to that of reading a good book. We are taken temporarily out of our own lives and transplanted as observers into the author’s creation.

The album isn’t exactly a full-blown concept album. However, there is a thread that runs through the ten songs that give European Electric Cinema a defined theme. Each track is a separate element crucial to the expression and mood of the whole album. Individually, the songs explore a separate idea and work well on their own. You can dip into the music piece by piece and enjoy the album in this way. For the best results though, I’d recommend listening to the album as a whole and allow yourself to get under this particular Alien Skin.

This is the kind of album that could only have been produced by a mature artist at the top of their game. Make no mistake, this is music for grown-ups. Grown-ups who appreciate innovation and a musical adventure born out of a fertile imagination generating endless fascinating ideas.

You can listen to European Electric Cinema at Alien Skin’s Bandcamp page and if you do so, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best musical experiences you’ll have in a long time.

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numberSLEEPINGBAG STUDIOS  Always inspiring to read about the life of a musician and listen to all the twists and turns that their music & career will take them; case in point, the man behind the music of Alien Skin, George Pappas.  Even if you’re unfamiliar with the name itself, chances are you heard music from the band Real Life in the form of their single “Send Me An Angel” – which undoubtedly, everyone across the world knows.  George was a part of Real Life’s rotating line-up from about 1996 onward from what I can research…and eventually starts to head his own direction as a solo-artist in Alien Skin as of around 2008 with his debut record Don’t Open Till Doomsday starting this fine musician on a whole new path to creating music on his own.

Now…don’t get me wrong…I got love for “Send Me An Angel” and all-that…but of course, that’s in the past – and I’m always looking forward to hearing new ideas.  As far as I’ve read, Pappas was also in the band after that mega-hit was written…so I figured there’d be a good chance of this sounding entirely different.  My own father is a ‘new’ player in an existing band of Canadian-level fame in Prism…keyboard player as well in fact…so I figured maybe the same dynamic existed here in George’s career whereby maybe the music of Real Life was able to utilize the extraordinary capabilities and talent of Pappas, but that he’d probably be writing something much different were it left up to him and his own devices.  Good experiences and good times I have zero-doubt…but when no one’s looking, artists like these reach out for something more through their own creativity, ideas and music…and so too, does George.  Safe to say that being hired on by an existing band like that and accepted right into the fold also hints at the man having the entire skillset required to really bring out his best, 100% of the time.

I definitely have no problem admitting to Alien Skin pulling me in quickly on a personal-level.  As European Electronic Cinema began, it took me back to the first time I had listened to Faultline…and this combination here from George through music & words reminded me of the first time I’d heard the track “Greenfields” from Faultline, which featured Michael Stipe.  The vocals are sweet like that on “June Is The Coldest Time” and the combination with the music make it sound like this first tune could have been on that same album from Faultline back in the day.  In any event…I like what I’m hearing.  This music is anything but typical and “June Is The Coldest Time” quickly morphs from being a more pop-infused melody in the electro-atmosphere into experimental-electro and back again, all with haunting samples in the music that add mystery and texture to this album’s opening tune.  Very poetic and expressive nature to both the vocals and the music…still somehow maintains enough of a straightforwardness to it that many people could latch onto it, but it definitely heads firmly towards the bizarre, strange and beautiful by the time “June Is The Coldest Time” ends.

“Terror Ist” would have Alien Skin heading towards the trip-hop section of the genres he adventures into – and this is a great side to his music overall.  “Terror Ist” has a sexy groove to its electro-infused low-end melody and moves like water flows throughout its five-minutes.  Great pace, great production, great performance here from George and a track that definitely has tangible hooks that rhythmically and hypnotically pull you in.  Kind of close to something like King Cobb Steelie or maybe like, Peace Orchestra…but you know, with words & such…  It’s a track full of inviting sounds to the earholes though – I dig the low-end pulse of “Terror Ist” and how it contrasts the sweetness that moves through George’s gorgeous vocal performance…great composition of jazzy-electro in this second track.

While I can recognize that following Alien Skin into these tripped-out tunes might be quite a voyage for some people – I’d encourage you all to take the ride all the same.  Each of these songs present a real idea and moments that are completely stunning along the way…and everything I’ve heard seems to have something new to offer.  “I Love Art Deco” is a perfect example of ingenuity, art & music combined to create something unique.  The sliding low-end rhythm slides perfectly into a dreamy chorus full of beautiful, soaring synth sounds and perfect vocals from George.  I think “I Love Art Deco” leans a little towards the strange and bizarre side of music, but I think that this is also a realm in which Pappas thrives.  I dig what he’s come up with on “I Love Art Deco” – this was an early highlight for me.

European Electronic Cinema heads toward softer, more lounge-like terrain on “All Tomorrow’s Cares” for a smooth ride through four-minutes.  I appreciate the chilled-out sound and style this track has…but I can also recognize the energy in this track is nearly non-existent…just barely above a pulse in many ways.  “All Tomorrow’s Cares” never really builds towards anything other beyond what you initially get…it’s well-sung, tightly performed and produced but a bit on the sleepy side like an audible interpretation of the very moments before you go from being wide-awake to sound asleep in a dream.  I felt similar about the track to follow with “Platinum Good Looks” as far as the energy of the music was concerned – but I think this latter-cut was also saved by some really fantastic ideas in the actual sounds and tones used in the music that make it a bit more interesting to the ears.  There’s a mysterious air in the nature of “Platinum Good Looks” – like audible mischief…and while it might not offer anything close to straight-forward hooks and rhythm – it DOES offer quite the adventure into an entire atmosphere and idea executed at the highest-level.  There’s enough movement to “Platinum Good Looks” to keep the attention in the writing – but the real magic lies in the texture of the atmosphere through the music and vocals combined.

“Prettiest Flower” reaches back to the artistic-electro combinations that Alien Skin creates so uniquely.  I really liked the chorus of this tune…like, a LOT.  It’s a bit tougher of a track in the sense that it takes a bit of an extreme wander and build to get to the eventual melodic-payoff – but it’s certainly there on this tune.  The chorus of “Prettiest Flower” is real magic – love the way it breaks-off and splits into a breakdown/bring-back after the first time we hear it.  Sticking with his signature offbeat-ideas…”Prettiest Flower” still retains the strangeness and cohesiveness required to suit this album…but it also has a real tender nature to its writing that really has an unsuspecting way of sneaking up on you.  I wasn’t completely sold on the first go around…but by the end of listening to this record, I really liked this tune personally.

Everything about “Sterile In Blue” hits home strongly.  Excellent imagery in the words, incredible ideas in the music and how to make it work and move with real style – “Sterile In Blue” is a subdued, chilled-out song that you can really lose yourself right into.  There’s a slight twinge of the blues to the melody…the vocals do well to bring a little swagger and emotion to the words…but even with those impressive elements working heavily in favor of Alien Skin, for me it was all about the incredible backing-elements and various sounds you’ll hear mixed into “Sterile In Blue.”  George is executing with tremendous skill here and really given something to the audiophiles like myself out there with the creativity in the music of “Sterile In Blue.”  Honestly a great track to really sit there, listen to and immediately repeat the experience…it’s all-encompassing atmosphere pulls you right in there and keeps your attention through its charm – I could listen to this track for days and days and days on end.

“I Still Think Of You” was an interesting track to me.  Once again, I really liked the ideas in the music and the incredible textures that Alien Skin brings to the sound overall…but there are definitely a few strange choices being made in this melody.  The final part of the progression that heads downward in tone as opposed to what your ears will think are logically going to raise up didn’t quite work for me…but what do you do, it’s only one line in an otherwise beautiful track?  I just feel like Alien Skin chose to go left here despite all-indications in the melody to go to the right…and it kind of sounds difficult at points as a result.  Credit to a good performance on the vocals overall though – I like what George has done here in the melody…I think that tendency to lean towards the new, experimental and uncharted terrain costs him a little bit in the sweetness of this idea overall however.

The groove, rhythm and pulse of “The Emporer’s Tram Girl” is seriously addictive to listen to.  Almost like a Damon Albarn creation of some sort…this electro-jam keeps itself subtle, contained and extremely deep-rooted in a moving vibe that has real emotion and an extremely adventurous sound.  Great use of vocal samples and the repeating synth-bass groove is undeniably awesome to listen to – “The Emporer’s Tram Girl” starts up its catchy rhythm immediately and never lets you go.  A MASSIVE highlight occurring towards the end of this record – Pappas is at his finest on the vocals, energy and flow of this second-to-last cut and “The Emporer’s Tram Girl” is completely a track I would listen to over and over again.  Excellent ideas in the music, composition and the way the beat in this track never lets up until just towards the end in a final switch and departure into an inspired ending.  Can’t get enough of it, all I can do is love and LOVE it – “The Emporer’s Tram Girl” is a serious winner.

“My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)” takes the album back to more experimental terrain to end the record.  Great mix on the sound…another very atmospheric and spaced-out melody from Alien Skin, but an effective ending.  While I don’t think that “My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)” has a date with the radio anytime soon – I do think it provided heavy emotions, passion and depth to the end of European Electronic Cinema and created a memorable ending.  Toughest spot on the record coming after “The Emporer’s Tram Girl” and a completely different vibe to “My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)” – but I think the strengths of what George has put on display throughout this entire record come through strongly at the end here and highlight some of the best qualities of his writing and music.

It’s certainly not a typical record in any kind of conventional sense…it’s got real adventure, tone and ideas in the writing and really made for an otherworldly and adventurous listening experience.  Who doesn’t want to have one of those right? 

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numberMUSIC EXISTENCE  Alien Skin is the moniker of Australian singer-keyboardist George Pappas. Originally part of the mid-90s incarnation of famed new wave outfit Real Life, Pappas sought to channel that decade’s experimental aesthetic. In 2008, he accomplished just that. His solo sound is described as a ‘cinematic’ and ‘liquid’ brand of electronic music, which fittingly comprises each album. And considering his artistic growth through the years, nothing less is expected.

On September 2nd, Alien Skin releases European Electronic Cinema, his 12th album to date. This album features an exclusively synth sound, with bolder, bass-driven arrangements that maintain plenty of atmosphere. The opener, “June is the Coldest Time,” takes cue from the previous album in a thematic sense. Whether this was meant to re-establish familiarity, it ultimately succeeds. Pappas’ vocal delivery directly accentuates the bleakness and disarray of seasonal depression. I found this song interesting from two hemispheric perspectives: one eastern, the other western. The first is concrete, having to do with the psychological numbness of a harsh winter. The second, more subtle perspective pertains to one’s aloofness in summer. This enhances the meaning to a degree, as summer may be characterized otherwise by a surplus of freedom and romantic spontaneity. While mournful, teardrop-esque synths create the song’s main melody, it is paced by inverted chimes, heartbeat kicks, as well phases of disjointed, almost half-sung chatter.

On the track to follow, “Terror Ist,” that vibe continues with a hefty drum groove, accentuated by reverberated and slightly detuned lead tones. I appreciated the slow tremolo effect on the panned rhythm synths, making them function almost like a backing vocal. Pappas’ subject matter expounds on the nature of distance, noting the futility of violence over a more sensible verbal resolution. The vibe turns briefly positive around the 2:36 mark, featuring ethereal, dynamic synth chords over contrasting stripped-down percussion. There’s a nice sense of space in the transition to the latter verse, even through its remainder is more instrumental-focused. By the third track, “I Love Art Deco,” the man has a heightened, bordering delirious appreciation for scenery, perhaps as a temporary aid in assuaging the emotional scarring. The step-by-step interplay between percussion and synth is especially alluring, while Pappas’ vocals approach proves suitable. Once the chorus hit, I found myself on the verge of being enveloped by it, but not before the transition to the next verse pulled me out. Luckily, the second chorus felt fuller in its implementation.

“All Tomorrow's Cares” only gets better in its execution, particularly in its main lead melody. I had to play it back simply to make sure I wasn’t deceived—that’s how much I was drawn in. This is a brutally stark contrast, from the gradual healing of self-sufficiency, to a debilitating—perhaps even suicidal—dependency. Its telling still renders poignant, however, by the simple acknowledgement of one’s overstated ego. I felt that the entrance of the secondary melody was equally representative, in that it momentarily sheds away any presence of darkness until the track ends.

From the album’s midpoint, “Platinum Good Looks” and “Prettiest Flower” are told from two separate perspectives, female and male. The first song emits more of a mischievous tone. It sees the subject continually lead on by a previous infatuation, while stringently adhering to the “dress to impress” principle. Conversely, the other subject has an uplifting tone and is decidedly more grounded, feeling neutral whether their love interest has maintained themselves. I had envisioned both songs as if they were composed on acoustic guitars. Their main melodies each contribute much to that imagination and hook listeners in with their own unique bliss. “Sterile in Blue” seems to combine the mindsets of the aforementioned songs. Particularly, it entails beginning neutral only to become vulnerable— being consumed by a high to the point of strain and anxiety. Later on, they find themselves immersed in a fantasy of being totally helpless, with the intention of being saved by the other.

Feelings go unreciprocated in “I Still Think of You,” whereby the girl has gone emotionally numb. While there are sporadic memories brought up, they are merely of exaggerated negativity. It is suggested that while she aims to forget the relationship she had, she simply misses the idea of having someone at her side. The penultimate track, “The Emperor’s Tram Girl,” the two are implied to have split. The woman must adjust to a grim lifestyle in the urban underground, feeling constrained by the incompetence of others. This song’s main melody is also intriguing—dissonant and smog-like, feeling almost like feedback from a guitar. At the 2:29 mark, a spoken word section reveals mixed emotions of her lifestyle. In the final track, “My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke),” the man’s turnout is far more bittersweet. He is presumed either dead or in a vegetative state, as the lyrics point to an ‘imaginary friend’ singing songs to him. Both the song’s style and context are reminiscent of David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, and its ‘Thin White Duke’ mention makes that notion clear. Perhaps the man was certain of an abrupt escape from life, especially if it meant uniting with his Heaven set musical hero.

Overall, European Electronic Cinema is a lovelorn journey comprising euphoria, destruction, and reinvigoration in one. What begins as a hazy, seemingly grandiose recollection of memories becomes clearer and more complete with each song. The instrumentation is extremely well-crafted, allowing listeners to not only lose themselves in different worlds but relate to scenarios that prove truthfully—and painfully—down to Earth. Any day now, listeners will be exposed to an album that resonates, both solidly and creatively.

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  When your career leads you to experiment with music in various forms and styles, some incredible things can happen. George Pappas, the man behind the Alien Skin project, knows a thing or two about evolving as an artist and as a person, relentlessly pursuing a sound that blurs the lines between accessibility and experimentalism in the realm of forward-thinking electronic music.

George is no stranger to the music industry: he was a former keyboardist and co-songwriter with “Real Life”, a hugely successful 80s band based in Australia. These days, George’s sound is quite different, although his drive to connect with people and express himself through great music as not waned at all.

His latest album, European Electronic Cinema, has just been released, and it is a record as bold and striking as its iconic title.

European Electronic Cinema features a kaleidoscopic and unpredictable approach to electronic music, defined by ethereal soundscape, with textural and full-bodied sounds. A lot of artists who focus on electronic music tends to get lost in their world of software, synths, and quirky sonic manipulations, often focusing a lot on the music, but leaving other important elements behind, such as arrangements, lyrics and song-writing. With a background in other genres, George knows what its like to write a catchy, yet meaningful song, regardless of the instrumental backdrop. The songs on the album are reminiscent of the work of performers such as Chet Faker and James Blake, although there’s a more dense psychedelic component to the whole record, reminding me of artists such as Beck or The Flaming Lips.

The first track, on the album, “June Is The Coldest Time”, makes for a stunning opener. The slow-paced, heavy beats of this track complement George’s melodic vocals, making for an engaging and captivating tune.

“Platinum Good Looks”, the fifth track on the album, his also one of my favorite numbers, striking for its Bowie-like vocal tones and a blend of theatricality that makes me think of great innovators the likes of David Byrne.

The album as a whole is full of highlights, including its intense rhythmic component and the beautiful soundscapes that add grit and realness – a perfect blend of good classic songwriting and haunting electronica.

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numberINDIE BAND GURU  They say first impressions are everything, so when I looked at the name Alien Skin, there was a very strong first impression there. This Australian keyboardist/singer-songwriter also goes by the name of George Pappas. His current moniker comes in succession to his long-time involvement in the Australian band Real Life, who had a huge hit “Send Me An Angel” in the ’80s.

That’s not to say that all of his fame should come from his well known past involvements. Alien Skin has been around since 2007, and has provided 7 studio albums. His latest, European Electronic Cinema, is set to come out on September 2 — the 10 very intriguing tracks are sure to keep your head in space.

The first track, “June Is the Coldest Time” starts off with a very nice synthesized beat that fades into some really trippy sounds. The vocals begin and they are soft enough to make it seem like they are a thousand miles away yet pumping into your ear drums at the same time. As the female background vocals come in, you can’t understand what is being said but it still manages to reverberate through you.

“I Love Art Deco” is the third song from the album and has a bit of a hip-hop feel to it initially. The pop aspect of the track comes in as the vocals start, and there’s such a mysterious vibe to this one that I can’t really explain it. Definitely still an ’80s sound in Pappas’ voice, but it really brings a sense of nostalgia in such a modern tune. When there are no vocals present, the track still seems to keep its interesting nature.

“Prettiest Flower” is the sixth track, and personally my favorite. It starts out so delicately, just as a flower would be described. There’s a trippy sense to it, but there’s also a continuous thumping in your eardrums that keep you grounded while your mind goes on a journey.

There’s so much more to experience with this album that you can find out all about when it releases. Stay tuned into the Alien Skin website for more updates.

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numberSIDE-LINE MAGAZINE Genre/Influences: Electro-pop, jazzy, lounge.

Background/Info: George Pappas will always be linked to this world-wide 80s hit “Send Me An Angel” he ever composed when he was a member of Real Life. Pappas is already active under the Alien Skin moniker for a couple of years now and has released numerous productions. The early records got released on the now defunct A Different Drum while he now mainly self-releases his work.

Content: “European Electronic Cinema” is a new exploration of electronic-pop music mixed with many other influences like jazz and lounge music. The songs are driven by slow rhythms while carried by the particular vocals of George Pappas. His timbre of voice sometimes reminds me of Marc Almond, which is the type of voice fitting with jazzy electronics.

Some of the jazzy passages have been reinforced by some synth-trumpet sounds. There’s some sensuality in this album, which reaches a climax during the female backing vocals. The work however remains pretty pop-minded and still a bit into wafting atmospheres, which sometimes become pretty cinematographic-minded.

Alien Skin is an atypical formation, which sounds on the side line of classical electro-pop standards. The sound is more diversified and mixed with an explicit jazz influence. It’s music to relax and dream away, but also accomplished with a deep touch of melancholia. There are a few noticeable songs on this opus and I especially want to mention the love song “I Still Think Of You” and the totally sensual-like “The Emperor’s Tram Girl”.

Alien Skin is not exactly music to get wild on, but more like a free-pop style to listen to. It’s not the most accessible kind of music.

Conclusion: “European Electronic Cinema” is a styled production mixing electro-pop and jazzy influences into a delicious reverie trip. Best songs: “The Emperor’s Tram Girl”, “I Still Think Of You”, “Terror Ist”

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