Alieron – Mirage (2016) Review

While the world of retrowave often favours frantic car chases, Aileron makes a mellower trip seem infinitely more appealing.

AVAILABLE HERE: Bandcamp
Released 27 July 2016 through Lazerdiscs Records.

An ‘aileron’ is a technical term in aeronautics. It’s the edge of an aeroplane wing that can be moved in a rolling motion to help the aeroplane to turn. It’s also French for ‘little wing’, which is neat. But what this tells us about Australian-born, Canada-based artist Aileron is that he’s an artist who is all about the journey.

His latest EP, Mirage, was released in the height of summer on 27 July, 2016. The description offered is dramatic and vivid, promising listeners:

“That first hit is like a bite from a cobra, directly to your spine, but thereafter you can wander in a world that is akin to a page from a Philip K. Dick novel.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, and it’s certainly a brave way of introducing music. More than anything however, this is a decidedly clever tactic by Aileron as it proves one certainty: he knows his audience. Hyper-realism, the frenzied spectacle of virtual reality, and – of course – the grandfather of postmodern sci-fi, Philip K. Dick. Thankfully, Mirage pushes all the right buttons.

Opener “You Should Not Come,” despite the title, is actually pretty warm and inviting. Ever so slightly sparse, it comes together with the slinky bass and chopped, faded vocals. As the track builds, it adds subtle touches of Thomas Dolby and his big-synth contemporaries. Segueing nicely into title track “Mirage,” Aileron once again makes use of similarly soft-textured. This EP is branded as ‘nu-disco’ – a tag befitting the hypnotic, danceable mood of the music.

“Cobra” is all about the bass and is probably the most magical sounding track on the EP. Complete with glittering sound effects, explicit 808-esque kick drums and soaring synth, “Cobra” is worthy of multiple visits. Mirage achieves an almost effortless musical coherence, which stands out as one Aileron’s strengths as a producer. The final track before the remixes, “Stratosphere,” features a return to demanding synth and looped, distorted vocals. Which brings me to my only minimal criticism here: while coherence and consistency of theme is undoubtedly a strength of the EP, if one isn’t listening carefully it’s easy for the songs to fuse into one – sometimes the package is a little too uniform.

However, the remixes are a generous complement to a solid EP. Label mates Absolute Valentine, Alpharisc and Niky Nike all pitch in with their takes on Aileron’s fresh brand of pleasurable summer synth. The first mix from Absolute Valentine sees “Mirage” tweaked to the band’s love of futuristic, moodier synth. Alpharisc’s remix of “You Should Not Come” says goodbye to the chilled, removed sound of the original and shimmies along to prominent four-on-the-floor beats. It’s a noticeably more danceable affair with elements of Grum that really works. Likewise, Niky Nike’s “Mirage” remix takes a much darker turn, incorporating brooding synths that are typical of his outrun – or roadwave, for the unacquainted –  sound and makes it sound like a different track altogether.

Listen to this if… you’re in the mood for something a little different: more glimmering hazy summer-synth, than darkwave annihilation.

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