Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema Review

alien skin european electronic cinema album review

Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema Review

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.

Alien Skin European Electronic Cinema (2016) Track Listing

1. June Is the Coldest Time
2. Terror Ist
3. I Love Art Deco
4. All Tomorrow’s Cares
5. Platinum Good Looks
6. Prettiest Flower
7. Sterile in Blue
8. I Still Think of You
9. The Emporer’s Tram Girl
10. My Polaroid Friend (Thin White Duke)

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