Before listening to Hamilton, Ontario experimental synth duo Sega Sisters, I was intrigued by the concept, based on the name of their debut EP Gene Sis (excellent punnery!). I was half expecting some 16-bit beeps and boops that would be appropriate as background music for a level of Sonic the Hedgehog. The album art is rather disappointing. Synth projects are known for having colourful, aesthetically-pleasing art, whereas the art for Gene Sis looks like it was thrown together in less than a minute on MS Paint.
As it turns out, the music wouldn’t really be the kind you’d find on a dusty video game cartridge. Instead, it has the feel of a calming indie film score. A film I envision being character-driven, with psychedelic lighting, but without much action, due to budget constraints.
The six tracks were recorded in single takes in a bedroom, with Olga Kirgidis and Jim Fitzgerald Jr. improvising on their Korg synths. I wonder if they actually did play for a total of 35 minutes, or if they played for hours on end, and what we’re hearing are the best segments, when Kirgidis and Fitzgerald were able to find a common groove. The composition is simple, usually consisting of one long held low note, with three or four higher notes played over it, with some variation.
You can tell the two were playing around with different settings and features on the two middle tracks. I don’t know much about synths, but I believe they use a vocoder on “Ho Hum.” And on “Space Farts,” they use a percussive setting that makes every hit of a key sound like a ship exploding in Space Invaders. Underneath the hum of the synths, you can hear the lo-fi sigh of white noise, similar to radio static or gentle rain.
Gene Sis isn’t terribly exciting, but it’s still good for one listen. Most times, when I listen to synthwave, is when I’m watching a new century horror film filled with 80s nostalgia. I usually need something with a bumping beat and booming bass, to get the adrenaline pumping. There can be ambient soothing sections, but there’s also a need for conflict and action.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*Edited by Dominic Abate