Urban Heat: “Sanitizer”

After naming them as our July 2022 Artist of the Month, we here at KUTX have gotten an awful lot of opportunities to gush about the Austin synth-goth gargantua that is Urban Heat. With a blacked-out sense of fashion and all the industrial analogue toys a bitter boy could want, Urban Heat instantly evokes an impossibly-slick sense of 1980s nihilism, perfectly primed for our pandemic era and an entire dejected generation. Of course, there’s still a ton of synth-pop beauty in the bass-and-beat-driven bleakness, as heard throughout Urban Heat’s 2022 album Wellness and the handful of singles they’ve shared since.

So, sure, the Wellness stalwart “Have You Ever” has climbed past millions of streams, but that success hasn’t slowed Urban Heat’s ascension to The Tower, out this summer. If we’d just heard this next record’s first lead single, “Like This”, we’d honestly expect much of the same from Wellness. Turns out though, that Wellness was just the foundation for The Tower, as made clear by the full-length’s second preview, “Sanitizer”.

Far from a sterile sound, “Sanitizer” oozes infectious electro elements like drastically-saturated bass tones, scalpel-sharp drums, and pitch wheel synth sirens that’ll elevate your heartbeat with what’s easily Urban Heat’s most aggressive original to date. Clearly, there’s no musical malpractice when it comes to these goth doctors…but the same can’t be said for the trio’s trauma team characters in the music video for “Sanitizer”. It’s gross. It’s hilarious. It’ll tear your heart right out. And you’d better believe Urban Heat turns the O.R. into a dance floor for their lucky pair of patients (dancers Larissa Dali and Quentin Arispe). So between Urban Heat kickoff of a tour in support of Twin Tribes tonight in Pomona and their return to Texas in early February, remember: a play of “Sanitizer” a day keeps bad music away.

Mass Minor: “Worthy”

Even though its initial ubiquity arrived in the late ’70s/early ’80s, synth-driven compositions, regardless of which decade they came from, continue to sound intrinsically futuristic. I mean down to the digital DNA underneath the instrument’s nuts and bolts, the synthesizer has always embodied a sci-fi aesthetic. Of course, nearly a half century down the line, even with astounding breakthroughs in MIDI technology, there’s a certain retro quality to pushing the synth front and center of arrangements, regardless of genre. As such, Austin’s synth scene is like a perpetual time machine, one that sends listeners back to the ’80s glory days of synth pop before hurdling them into the distant unknown. Within that crowd, we’re proud to have Mass Minor call our town home. Beginning with their 2020 debut LP Become Each Other, this trio’s top-graded a sense of timelessness through synth-pop, synth-wave, and electronic rock. They spent much of last year captivating crowds, including appearances at SXSW and supporting slots alongside our July 2022 Artist of the Month Urban Heat and Depeche Mode tribute project Strangelove. But in 2023, considering their rise amongst “uncertain times”, Mass Minor is set to beckon in the post-public health emergency era of COVID with a new piece of temporal exploration. For their upcoming sophomore full-length Mass Minor teamed up with Robert Plant/David Bowie producer Tim Palmer, with a release date set for later this year. Today Mass Minor emerges from their neon-bathed portal with the record’s lead single and their first studio since the turn of the decade. Kicking off with a Tron-ready arpeggiator, “Worthy” wheelies right past the competition with turbulent subdivisions, heroic vocals, and a whirlwind of a hook, which at just over three minutes, makes it an ideal choice for your next montage sequence, be it working out, working through personal stuff, or straight up saving the world. Is it f-ing not enough? Hell no. It’s beyond “Worthy”.

Urban Heat: “Have You Ever”

Upton Sinclair shocked the world with the harsh, humid realities of city life in his 1906 The Jungle. More than a century later, we understand there was a bit of muckraking embellishment in the novel, but you won’t find any unnecessary exaggeration with Urban Heat. Since 2019 this Austin trio’s captivated metropolitan crowds with their energetic-yet-eerie brand of industrial post-punk and synthwave, a timeless sound perfect for a modern-day version of The Jungle.

Urban Heat’s ability to keep things dark without being overly morose is a testament to their artistry, which has landed the three-piece spots at Levitation Fest, SXSW, and perhaps most appropriately, Seattle’s Freakout Fest. But since the ongoing pandemic’s drawn extra attention to self-care, Urban Heat’s had to confront their grim preferences and take on the duty of leaving listeners with an extra sense of comfort. The result is their upcoming EP Wellness, out July 26th. With their pulsating synths, weighty vocals, and retro-soundscapes these six new songs (including “Have You Ever”) will help in that continuous healing process as best they can. So when Urban Heat comes around for their Wellness check in late July (and even earlier on May 18th at Far Out Lounge), make sure you answer the call.