The ‘80s has always been a potent lure for artists of all backgrounds. With its neon-lit nightscapes, whirling pop euphoria and disregard for conventional musical perceptions, it stands as singular period of time where music, art and cinema melded into a sensory overload of impulses and experiences. And while many modern musicians attempt to adapt these sounds to suit their own needs, few are able to actually evoke the fluorescent purity of the decade without their work collapsing under the weight of associated nostalgia.
However, Eli Raybon seems to have found that balance between homage and innovation. Emerging from an unbridled imagination, his work began in a small town in Mississippi, where he wrote songs and directed movies on Hi8 tapes. Some years later, he began to understand the tendency of society to mold children into the likeness of their parents, and this was anathema to Raybon’s own worldview. Two days before he was set to enter freshman orientation in New York for computer science and mathematics studies, he decided to cancel his classes and began recording what would become his debut record, “The Machine & My Dilemma,” a collection of songs which documented his struggles against personal and societal expectations.
After the album’s release, Raybon settled in Los Angeles and immediately released two singles which found success through various online outlets. The ambitious video for one of these songs, “30 Cents,” was screened at various film festivals across the country. He then shared “Green,” an EP which further cemented his status as someone whose allegiance to the synth pop and new wave artists of the ‘80s was ever evolving and rhythmically amorphous. Shortly thereafter, he became preoccupied with hardware synthesizers and began constructing his soundscapes exclusively through these machines.
In need of some guidance, he sought out synth authority Prozak Morris, and the two discovered an instant comradery, one born from similar musical instincts and desires. Their collaboration resulted in “Supertoys,” a sci-fi concept album that will be released on July 12. Steeped in aural surrealism and a complicated nostalgia, the record expands his musical palette far beyond anything he’s worked on before. Influences from Tangerine Dream to M83 flood the tracks, resulting in an avant-garde synthesis requiring multiple listens to decipher.
On his latest single, “Empathy Test,” Raybon fully embraces the ecstatic synth pop urges that have continually pushed him to broaden the genre’s boundaries. Electronic warbles, bloops and squiggles bounce around like silly putty ricocheting from wall to wall. Melodies extend until they run far out of sight, and everything is laced with an iridescent shimmer. You can hear the echoes of bands like Soft Cell and The Human League, but Raybon’s not interested in mere imitation; he creates a unique and disorienting wash of sounds which race through your brain, igniting infinite neurons in a series of wildly unpredictable movements.