Brat’ya has been a figure in retrowave music for well over a year and a half now yet they’ve been incredibly slept on by the average synthwave listener. In part that may have something to do with the fact that his phenomenal debut album Nightwalker dropped on Business Casual, which is a label primarily known for vaporwave and it’s derivatives. After successfully selling all the physical copies of Nightwalker, and making an appearance on the charity compilation The Night Call: Vol. 1, Brat’ya all but disappeared from the public eye other than maintaining a rather small social media presence. Which is a shame because with Desire, his follow up EP, Brat’ya proves he’s willing to keep pushing the boundaries of retro electronica in new directions.
In fairness, calling this release synthwave would be inaccurate and doing it a great injustice. Whilst some of the familiar characteristics of the genre are present in the EP, the amount of different influences and flavors that went into Desire is astonishing. The funkier vibes of Nightwalker, for the most part, are traded off for more mellow production and vocal delivery with the exception of the track Girl which features delightfully vocoded vocals, bouncy basslines, and Brat’ya’s signature arpeggiated leads.
Outside of this track, and some snippets interspersed throughout, the comparisons with the artists’ debut album seemingly end. The rest of the tracks are generally a lot slower, moodier and, as mentioned before, feature a lot of different musical ideas. The production on the drums are more akin to what I would describe as ‘beats’, heavily featuring the water sprinkler styled, trap influenced hi-hats, which work surprisingly well in the context of the album. Aside from the new-wave/80’s synth instrumentation, there is a fair amount of more contemporary and modern pop instrumentation as well. Brat’ya will even occasionally feature some completely left-field elements, such as the sporadic sampling on Panic Attack, which are reminiscent of the vocal chopping techniques utilized in certain styles of vaporwave.
For the most part these different ideas are executed gracefully and stick to a consistent tone. Hovewer, some of these ideas are better than others; the track Panic Attack is the absolute highlight, featuring dense, heavily sampled composition that’s exciting from start to finish. Some elements I’m not as crazy about however, like when the music takes a more modern top-40’s-esque turn. Occasionally the cliché pop piano and vocal deliveries can get a little bit grating too.
However, Desire was an intriguing and an enjoyable listen overall. It’s very admirable how different of an approach Brat’ya took with this EP in contrast to his debut and, while some of the sounds on here will more than likely offend genre puritans, as there are some kinks to be worked out, the bold songwriting and genre-bending is an absolute breath of fresh air regardless. You can purchase Desire on Bandcamp for $5.