In August of last year we reviewed George Pappas aka Alien Skin, a long-time keyboardist and co-songwriter with chart topping Australian band Real Life, who had a multi-million selling ’80s smash with the track, “Send Me An Angel”. Having made the transition to electronic music in the early 80’s, influenced by the Gore/Wilder version of Depeche Mode, Pappas is an authentically schooled musician when it comes to things analog. Alien Skin’s critically acclaimed album ‘1980 REDUX’, recaptured the glorious sounds of real vintage analog synths and rhythm boxes, as well as the authentic auras, atmospheres and moods, of a period that spawned innovation. During February of this year, Alien Skin dropped a new track, which does not feature on the ‘1980 REDUX’ album, entitled “The Wicker Man”. Pappas explained that the track comes off one of his many hard drives containing his back catalog of unreleased music.
So what does “The Wicker Man” tells us about George Pappas aka Alien Skin? Practically nothing new, and that’s the great news! What it does, is confirm, from my personal point of view, that Alien Skin, alongside Depeche Mode, Gary Numan and Orchestral Maneuvers in The Dark – though stylistically different between them – are the only pioneers still able to make relevant, authentically sounding synth-music.
It is what I used to, and still call, electronic music with soul. It has absolutely nothing to do with the sample-based, groove box electronics currently all the rage. Not that there is anything wrong with the new stuff, it’s just a different beast that delivers different levels of enjoyment. It’ the same difference of enjoyment I perceive between a vinyl recording and digital download from iTunes.
If anything “The Wicker Man” proves that Alien Skin has musically aged better than most if not all of the musicians of his generation proving that he was a modern prophet, and remains as such when it comes to synth based music. Pappas’ voice is almost used like an instrument, as his vocal style shifts to suit what is needed by the song. What’s surprising to me is how warm the sound is – the timbre is comforting while the lyrics issue a series of warnings to the listener.
The gentle but insistent, atmospheric backing-track, floats by, confirming images of a dark expanse of space, with plenty of room for the vocals to wave their melodic way through the song. Even though there’s space and dynamics to the instrumentation, there’s haunting tension and a great sense of scope.
In a perfect world this track would sit amongst many year-end polls. The grand theme and sound deserve to be soaked up by as many people as possible. “The Wicker Man” offers up a great song and motif that will pay you back with repeated lessons.
It’s a track that certainly lends itself to persuading you to immerse yourself and explore other songs by Alien Skin. “The Wicker Man” takes what George Pappas aka Alien Skin has been steadily doing for much more than a while now, and reinvents it, boosts it, increasing its vibrancy and electronic power, and then bringing it into the expanse of the modern music landscape.
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