Reviews

Recapping Surrounded by Sounds: A Digital Music Festival

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Surrounded by Sounds is a digital music festival founded by Synova and PM Mirror. In an interview via text, I spoke to Synova about his new project.

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SHAWN

The digital music festival opened up with an intimate set by Shawn Haller, who sat in front of a keyboard to play a stripped down version of his latest song, “Horsepower”. I’ve always argued that listening to an artist play a simpler version of their songs allows us to hone in on the story being told through lyrics, and Shawn’s performance was a great opener to the young creatives Surrounded by Sounds introduced the audience to.  

Favorite Track
Shawn Haller is mainly known for his skateboard stunts on Youtube with his brother SunHatKid. Aside from skateboarding, Shawn also has a passion for music, with his first release “Airplane Mode” showcasing his songwriting abilities. Shawn’s latest song, “Horsepower”, allows us to see his progression and growth in both his singing and songwriting.

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Instagram: @shawnhaller
Twitter:  @shawnhaller3
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COLE

The next artist on the lineup was Cole Sipe, whose digital setup played somewhat like a home video. We got a peek into Cole’s day-to-day as he made himself a drink and chilled on the couch with his girlfriend, listening along to all of Cole’s latest demos that he shared with us. On the bottom left-hand side of the screen, a friendly ferret cam gave the set an extra touch of entertainment (and cuteness).

Favorite Track
Cole Sipe is a producer and musician who is constantly collaborating with his peers and releasing new music. Whether it’s posting beats on Soundcloud, playing bass and recording an album with friends, or creating sample packs, Cole continues to fine tune his talents through various creative projects. His latest release “Snowmane” is a hip hop track with bars about chamomile tea. 

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Instagram: @cole_sipe
Twitter: @colesipe
Soundcloud:

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SUM

Yung Sum was one of my favorite acts of this digital festival. He played stripped down versions of his beautifully produced tracks, crooning into his microphone while playing the keyboard in his room. His video setup is symbolic to the image of a bedroom producer. During his performance, Yung Sum sat right in front of his computer with a small makeshift studio and recording space to his side.

Favorite Track
Yung Sum is a young (no pun intended) and promising artist whose music is a mix of sentimental lyrics and mellow melodies infused with a lovely voice. His latest release “Just Me” is ironically fitting for the current circumstances we find ourselves in. As some of us get apprehensive with the thought of being alone for so long, Yung Sum turns to optimism as he asks himself “when’s the last time I had barely spent the time on me?” We can quickly get so comfortable in being constantly surrounded by friends that being alone seems isolating. But as we are forced to be alone during this time of social distancing, we are also given an opportunity to spend time with ourselves, and there’s comfort in that too.

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Twitter: @prodyyungsum
Instagram: @prodyungsum
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MIRROR

The following set took a visual turn as I found myself watching PM Mirror hanging out by what looks like the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh. The video then transitioned to Will (PM Mirror) sitting in a swivel chair with sunglasses on, looking a bit somber in the sun as he sings into the mic with his beats playing in the background. “I like being alive,” he shouted. Will made the experience as personal and immersive as possible by showing his room and telling the audience that “this is where you’ll be for the next 25 minutes.” His entire performance is artistically filmed, as we see snippets of his illustrations and a close up of the temp light on his drum machine, as he closes with his visual video for “Bumble Queen”. 

Favorite Track
PM Mirror is a multifaceted artist who makes music, directs his own videos, creates his own visuals, and also has a podcast. His latest release, Basement | Butterfly, Pt. 2 is a collection of short stories about love. “Wildfire Romance” is musically eclectic, as Will extends beyond the piano and acoustic into more sonically experimental sounds like in “SQ Cigarettes” and “Cell Phone”.  Will’s talent is showcased in his musical arrangements and storytelling through his masterpiece of an EP.   

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Twitter: @thepmmirror
Instagram: @pmmirror
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MIDI

A blue light set the mood for artist and producer black midi, who appeared on a Mac home screen, complimenting the digital festival feel. He wore his sunglasses in the dark, as he sang along to various tracks. His melancholy lyrics paired well with lofi beats, allowing the audience to take a backseat and just zone out, relax, and reflect. 

Favorite Track
Representing Houston, Texas, black midi delivers a sound fit for late nights, rainy days, and moments of reflecting in solitude. black midi hits right in the feels with “angel,” a deconstructed love song with gentle, poignant vocals. black midi is able to explore various emotions with his production style and lyrics, and I can’t help but wonder and hope if the current period of social distancing will be an inspiration for more new music this year.  

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Twitter: @blackxmidi 
Instagram: @blackxmidi 
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APERTURE

Aperture Sound opened his digital set with unreleased tracks from his upcoming album. The audience never saw Justin’s face, but instead were greeted with an old Subway commercial, and the visuals continued to follow the theme of capitalism and consumerism in commercial media.

Favorite Track
Aperture Sound released a luscious track on Valentine’s Day called “All the Flowers Are Dying”. The song samples the Irish traditional ballad “Danny Boy,” a touch that lends a folk-melodic feel to the song. Aperture utilizes the sounds of harps and piano and reconstructs them into a lo-fi pop melody in “All The Flowers Are Dying”. Justin continues to explore the various elements of electronic music with tracks like “Cut Me” and “Never Felt This,” and I can’t wait for the release of his new album this year. 

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Instagram: @aperturesound
Soundcloud:

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GROOVE

GrooveCube delivered a heavy hit dubstep jungle set that made me start to head-bang in the kitchen. Sometimes I’m apprehensive about watching a dubstep set, because the music is so provoking of wanting to be in a mosh pit, but GrooveCube made up for my lack of mobility by going full force with his performance. Not only was he rapping and hyping up the audience, but he was also working out as he balanced himself on a bosu ball. He even mixed Joji into Lou Bega‘s “Mambo No. 5,” a classic tune from my childhood years.

Favorite Track
GrooveCube’s music is an exploration of various genres, with songs like “Lemons” which has a indie/folk intro that develops into a synth pop sound with sounds of video games floating in the background. “I Run to Your Grave” is a fusion between experimental indie and electronic symphony. 

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Instagram: @groovecube 
Twitter: @groovecubemusic
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XAVI

Xavi had some lovely fractal-like visuals during his dreamy electronic set. His music feels like living in a kaleidoscope with rainbows of sound reflecting off one another.   

Favorite Track
Xavi recently released a track with Just a Gent, titled “Miso & Memories,” which has quickly racked up plays on Spotify and Soundcloud. It’s a tune I’ve been playing constantly as of late. I hope the song leads to future collaborations between the artists, because their pairing led to the catchy, creative, and explorative sound.

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Twitter: @xavimakesmusic 
Instagram: @xavimakesmusic
Soundcloud:

SYNOVA

I’ve seen Synova (Jeremy) DJ before, and always find myself surprised and extremely impressed by his music selection and the way he successfully blends in polar genres into a singular groove. Jeremy’s ear for music discovery was demonstrated throughout his set, which explored various genres from indie, pop, electronic, and hip & hop, with some Carly Rae Jepsen thrown in for good measure.

Favorite Track
Jeremy is a talented musician, singer/songwriter, and producer who is serious and careful at mastering his craft. From his album artwork to production, Jeremy gives us the full Synova story behind his entire brand. One of my favorite songs is “Jeal:ousy”, where we hear Synova sing and strum on his guitar over bubbly digitized beats that make me feel like I’m in Adventure Time. Synova’s latest single “Change:Reaction” is scheduled to be released April 25th.  

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Twitter: @synovamusic 
Instagram: @synovamusic
Soundcloud:

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FORMERHERO

All the way from the UK we were introduced to former hero (Mike) who brought the festival rave to the live stream with his hard-hitting set full of EDM bangers. From fast hitting tracks, to melodic downtempos, it felt like traveling through a time capsule of raves.

Favorite Track
The name “feverpitch” perfectly suits former hero’s latest release. It instantly hits you with a quick paced tempo that makes you feel like you’re  chasing the rising temperature of a song just to hear it drop into a full dancefloor shakedown. 

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Twitter: @formerhero_ 
Instagram: @formerheromike
Soundcloud:

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JUSTAGENT

Just A Gent is an electronic music producer from Australia who closed off the night with a hypnotic set that transitioned time and space. With Tame Impala’s “Yes I’m Changing” setting the tone for the set, Gent took the audience to the moon with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and Joji’s “Sanctuary”. It felt as if Gent was inviting us to just lay down in our bed and allow our mind to travel through sounds and moments with him. 

Favorite Track
Gent’s latest release “Miso Memories” sounds like the life cycle of a butterfly, traveling through memories complimented by a twinkling harp. As the song reaches its metamorphosis with a crescendo of quick violin-like flutters, the past memories are released as we let go of the past and soar into a future of the unknown with less pain and more hope. 

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Twitter: @justagent 
Instagram: @justagent
Soundcloud:

Spotify:

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