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Sound the 'You can dance to every track' klaxon because you can dance to all nine expertly crafted, sleek, shimmering synth-wave masterclass on Unknown Unknowns, wherein a proven expert of the field offers up a truly inspired collection of heights and bangers, each more aurally delicious than the last.
George Ernst (Triplicate Records): Can you tell us how you came to adopt the moniker 'Jonny Fallout'?
Jonathan Follett aka Jonny Fallout: My musical moniker is a play on my real name and the fact that when I was younger I made some .... interesting ... hairstyle choices. I played in an industrial band with a good friend of mine, Kevin, a guitarist with whom I still collaborate with today. I got the bright idea to bleach my hair blonde. Now, bear in mind, my hair is a dark brown. So, this ill-advised effort was one that would require a ton of bleach. I sat in the hair stylist's chair for a couple of hours with my hair wrapped up in foil, and it felt like my scalp was on fire. In order to get to blonde, my hair had to be fried to a crisp — made almost straw-like in consistency. When I got back from the hair stylist, Kevin took one look at me with my deep fried golden hair and, after almost falling on the ground laughing, said, "You're Jonny Fallout!" And the name stuck.
GE: I've never heard a track quite like 'Oceans of Plastic', the short jungle-bursts lasting only a couple of seconds threw me off at first, and now it's one of my favourite parts of the album. Can you speak on your ideas going into composing that one?
JF: There's a strong connection between jungle and downtempo which comes by way of the funk breakbeat. Jungle uses that breakbeat at double time, of course, while downtempo and instrumental hip hop are playing the beat pretty much at the tempo it was recorded.
The jungle break that you're referring to ... when I wrote the beat I was thinking a lot about tension and groove, creating something that builds and then releases ... and the double time jungle break combined with the downtempo hip-hop beat, I think was a way of achieving that musical aim.
When I was composing "Oceans of Plastic" I had this image in my head of plastic floating in the water as far as the eye can see, washing up on the beach, wrapped up in seaweed. So, it's definitely a song of anguish and mourning and frustration, but it's also soulful and has a deep groove.
GE: Tell us about a random dream you had.
JF: When I was younger and stressed out by everything, I'd have these zombie nightmares, where I was running away from a horde of flesh eating monsters. For some reason, the couch in my dreams was always the solution to defeating the zombies. Push the couch against the door, or hide under the couch, or throw the couch down a flight of stairs to block their progress. I don't know what the couch represents, but if you ever find yourself fleeing from zombies (or if you're anxious and stressed out) keep in mind that comfy furniture can save you. Maybe there's a lesson there.
GE: What's your favourite track on the record? Mine's 'Interpreter of Dreams'. I love everything about that thing.
JF: I think "Interpreter of Dreams" is my favorite track as well. When I was writing the song, I think I composed 20 or 25 different versions. I was completely stymied, and it just wasn't working until I started stripping away tracks. I kept removing track after track, and it kept getting better and better. I always add in too many layers when I'm experimenting. So, while this is not an unusual process for me, with this song, it was much more significant. For instance, I completely removed the drums from the beginning of the song to expose the synths. For the first 90 seconds, I think there's just a little hi-hat that remains. I was really looking for the core of the song, and I was surprised to find it, buried beneath a lot of stuff that didn't need to be there.
GE: Challenge: Apply as many genre-names as you can to your musical project. If you can get more than 15, you get a cookie. No. TWO cookies.
JF: OK. That's some fine motivation.
Electronica, IDM, House, Trance, Drum and Bass, Synthwave, EDM, Trip Hop, Downtempo, Electro, Ambient, Industrial, Future Bass, Chillwave, Future Funk and Techno
GE: What've you been listening to lately?
Orbital - Optical Delusion
Christophe Beck - Anon (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Hans Zimmer - Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
ODESZA - The Last Goodbye
The Boston-based retrowave wizard known as Jonny Fallout marks his debut on Triplicate Records with the stunningly sleek 'Unknown Unknowns', which finds him defiantly enveloping the dark landscape of the present with a gorgeous retro-futurist shimmer, with extremely appealing and danceable results.
'Delete War' as an opener is a fine statement of intent, both in the energy of the composition and the badass anti-war title (which admittedly could be a small scale endurance contest over who can hold down 'backspace' the longest). We're treated to pretty flourishes set against a reliable Tangerine Dream-esque arpeggio sequence kicked into a mechanistic overdrive. Perfectly compressed percussion (spoiler: the LP has a lot of that) compliments the melody beautifully.
The following number, which has the honour of carrying the album title's name muses on the maximum point of power in a person's life, i.e. the present, with the repeated refrain: 'There is no past, there is no future, only now'. You can see (or hear, rather) how the concept of the record might've formed around this initial spark of brilliance.
'Perpetual Drift' will sound familiar to those who enjoyed last year's Time Lapse compilation, this time we're treated to an extended and gnarlier affair. Well, 'gnarlier' but not without the familiar Falloutian slickness. Every sound on this song and the album as a whole feels so stunningly tight and deliberate, it's a lesson in editing, sequencing, production and composition all in one.
'Saints in the Code' adopts a more traditional synthwave methodology with its sweetly sequenced.. well.. synths, complimented nicely with tasteful licks of electric guitar and pretty key stabs. 'Cybernaut' on the other hand, remixed from the 2021 Triplicate compilation 'Protozoa' is a wonderful mid-paced melody-focused banger whose meditative arpeggios threaten to meander into melancholy but never quite cross that line, though the depressingly titled 'Oceans of Plastic' comes closer yet. Perhaps the most experimental piece on the record, wherein disembodies and a steady 4-4 occasionally gives way to junglist breaks, all wrapped under a warm envelopment of synth-pads.
The lengthiest tune on Unknown Unknowns 'Hidden Language' features a propulsive beat and a nicely arranged extensive array of whooshes, pads, beeps... everything but the kitchen sink. An exercise in maximalist synthwave composition, colourful and fresh, a strong contender for the high-point of the record that truly dispels the myth of the second-side lag, though 'Interpreter of Dreams' seems hell-bent on raising the musical bar to further dazzling heights. An aural show-reel for Jonny Fallouts skills, borrowing components of the heights that preceded it, while reinventing the sound in the process. There's something the squeaky synth-bends do your brain that's hard to articulate in words. You'll just have to listen and do my job for me.
'Alternate Timeline', another reworked piece, this time from the 'Music for Dotted Lines' Trip FM compilation, and works wonders as a closer, both offering a somewhat more chilled final excursion than its eight brothers that came before, and dispelling the notion that a last track needs to truly wind-down, as the second half thumps off and takes to the skies.
You're not likely to hear many records so sweetly arranged and tightly put-together this year (though admittedly it's early yet). A truly inspired collection of heights and bangers from a proven expert in his field.
released May 17, 2023
Written & Produced by Jonathan Follett
Mastered by Michael Southard
Artwork by Bryan Kraft
Jonny Fallout is an electronic artist / producer of synthwave, retrowave and synthpop with cyberpunk flavor. When he's not
abusing the upper limits of his machine's RAM, he's obsessively sampling cool noises, constructing new sounds, or remixing tracks....more
Hermbot's minimalist ambient concept album, "Moonbase Alpha" was created with one synth, a Korg SQ1 sequencer, and some huge composition and production skills. It's a must listen space adventure. Jonny Fallout