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  • Jonathan Widran


Attention all 80s’ trippers in love with the infectious synth-pop magic of legendary groups like Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys and Dead or Alive! I dare you to pull your ears off Sirius/XM’s 80’s on 8 for 26 blissful minutes to take an energizing Balloon Ride Fantasy into a fresh dimension where nostalgic vibes from that era meet fresh, contemporary EDM flights of fancy.

Led by the visionary duo of frontman/producer Chris Olszewski and guitarist/synth master Phil Conley, the five piece Pittsburgh based electro pop/fantasy rockers’ latest EP, the semi-self-titled BRF, perfectly bridges the decades to bring that sonically trippy, melodically compelling and vocally transcendent new wave coolness into a contemporary context. Inspired musically by the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson and aesthetically by “Labyrinth” and the original “Blade Runner,” the multiple award winning outfit tops their swirling synthesis of sounds with out there, often ridiculously sublime lyrics that shun bland romantic expression for thought provoking explorations of futuristic dream worlds.

Leading up to the super-poppy, synth wash surrounded hook of the album’s first single “Arcadia,” we are treated to mind-bending storytelling like: “Up and decide to run away from this cage of hope/Boosgow teeming/Dog-eyed denizens bred to crawl.” As engaging as the track is, maybe those puzzling lyrics are simply priming us to check out the upcoming video for the track, which was recently filmed at Pittsburgh’s Evaline Party house – and features an initiation party for a mysterious cult run by a lioncorn leader. BRF is all about intriguing us as we’re reeling in the years and dancing our butts off – and we sure need that in these messed up times.

Another track I can’t get enough of is the buoyant, hypnotic jam “Robots in Lust (Night Song),” which cleverly equates love and emotion with shorting circuits. Then there’s the mystical, haunting, then blistering and booming search for “Gods Beyond the Moon,” which features a spirited title hook we can sing over and over as we contemplate offbeat poetry like “Divide Heaven Pinfold Irrational/Shout it, oh I see their faces.” While bringing a classic sound into the modern era, Balloon Ride Fantasy also enthralls with a weirdness that challenges our intellect. And how many bands do that for us anymore?

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