Various Artists
Synth Fighters






The idea is so obvious and the franchise so alive that the concept of a compilation has been thought through before and ever since, but every new attempt offers the chance for coherence and contingency on the one hand, as well as surprises and effulgence on the other hand, so this is the allotropic gist of Synth Fighters, a 20-track digital compilation released on the Cardiff, Wales-based label 30th Floor Records and available to fetch (name your price) and stream at Bandcamp. The world of Super Street Fighter II is targeted here, with all 16 fighters plus stage select screens and bonus stages happily united by Neon Dream designer Alexandre Lemoing’s sun-dappled artwork. Being the follow-up to the label’s similarly themed Synths Of Rage compilation which tested the waters in terms of Beat’em up-themed music, the grandeur of Synth Fighters is even greater, as everyone knows the franchise and the melodies of this ultimate classic. This, of course, makes the scope much more petrifying: should the artist remain close to the original? Is there room for improvements whatsoever? And what about the transplantation of a groove into a new genre or niche, be it Vaporwave, Outrun, even Mallsoft? I cannot give definite answers to these questions, but they are pressing, as the original visions of Yoko Shimomura, Isao Abe and Syun Nishigaki are benchmark-worthy… they belong to Capcom’s second part in a prospering series after all. These thoughts regardless: here is a closer look at each and every of the 20 tribute tributaries.


Future Holotape – Intro: The first song on a compilation – any compilation really – is the crucial gateway to the endemic world and raison d’être. Julie & Ernest aka Future Holotape from Los Angeles make sure to trigger the synapses of memorabilia, fully succumbing to the uplifting melody of the original intro, spicing it with the almost mandatory "round one: fight" and countdown samples. In the center of it all: a bit-crushed metallicity and square lead syrinxes of the purified kind, pointing leeway… and freedom in Synth Fighters translates into violent encounters.

Syntax – Player Select: Only a few miles off, San Diego-based Syntax sustains the benthic excitement of the famous player select screen for over three minutes. The eponymous song encapsulates the fluvial punctilio of the original with ligneous 16-bit bubbles, fibrillar breakbeat epithelia and a viscid glissando that agglutinates the cajoling dualism of edginess and soothing lobby music.

Kaleido Drive – Ryu: Oh yes, that fighter, I’ve heard of him before. Just kidding: Ryu is the vaporwaver or Nickelback among the roster, seemingly loved by everyone, but also publicly elbowed away by gamers who find the Japanese heroism a tad too grandiloquent. The theme is aural aurum though, shuttling between the remote isolation and melancholic tunnel visions of a maverick. Kaleido Drive takes this recondite pericarp and throws it into abrasively powerful synth scythes whose steelification/serration plasticizes the contemplation and cross-links the staggering oomph with a sunset-colored photometry. This belter is roaring alright.

Cobra Strike Force – E.Honda: The ophidian duo from Sweden enters the bathhouse and training ground of sumo wrestler E. Honda and transfigures his pixellated peritoneum into a gorgeous diffeomorphism of over six minutes. A hexangular quilting of synthesized New Age kotos, viridian albumin-powered legato streamlets, desiccate plinking devices as counterpoints to the viscoelastic humidity and a bubbly beat lariat offer a caproic sanctuary for a man's vicissitudes.

Stallone Jones – Blanka: Cardiff’s retro rascal Stallone Jones tames Jimmy aka the greenest beast of them all in a fittingly wooden-verglas transmutation of purposefully parochial phylogenetic beats, chromogenic synth rhizomes and arpeggiated leptons of vermillion hue. Closely tied to the original, Blanka is a ventricle filled with the faux-Brazilian perianths and roots that are forever engrained in our hippocampal center.

Alpharisc – Ken: Shane Yates aka Alpharisc from Melbourne has been given the riotous/amniotic polyvalence of Ken’s theme. The 80’s rhythm avulsion is filled with – and fueled by – synth choir muons, glaucous crystal isospins and orthogonal centrioles. The neutraceutical element of Ken being a rocker and bon vivant is still the angular momentum of Alpharisc’s immersion circulator. A lilting mayhem.

The Dust Collective – Guile: From Virginia Beach hails The Dust Collective, but you won’t see the orthochromatic spectrum being poured into the resigned theme of Guile when viewed from the group’s perspective. In lieu of a comparatively fast-paced ergosphere, the baroclinic boundaries are slowed down and rather serve as a midtempo Ambient-focused endpoint, resulting in a crimson cytoplasm of petrifying stargazing whose only adiabatic element is the interferometry of a distant guitar. An enchantingly volatile attrition.

Altwave – Chun-Li: Artyom from Biysk, Russia brings us the glassy/glossy physiognomy of the spiraling whirlwind known as Chun-Li. Rotoscoping wind gusts, enthralling vesicles and a frilly pentatonicism whose luminosity causes afterglows and magnetotails aplenty, Altwave’s remix is closely connected to the original but manages to relight the principal intercommunication between the prismatic chords. That this is a stripped-down version (no pun intended) of Chun-Li’s theme layer-wise is not even noticeable, as everything is aglow and mellow.

Variar – Zangief: Pittsburgh’s Variar has been given the task to remix the theme of Russia’s infamous bear wrestler. The 16-bit announcer and a laughing Zangief look in awe as the melancholy of the original leads to a handclap-infested tenor saxophone vignette which eventually makes room again for the granular strychnine-coated holarctic industrialism. Less ogival, more heartfelt, Variar’s version annihilates sarcopenia and augments the ever-increasing amounts of scars. A toned-down fibroblast.

Von Hertzog – Dhalsim: The least beloved and slowest character of the franchise in the 90’s, Dhalsim should receive much more love, so Philadelphia-based Von Hertzog’s remix is hence not just a skilled tribute, it is a declaration of gregarious dimensions. The verbiage of Dhalsim is embedded in a salubrious, almost demotic megafauna of saffron sirtuin sitars, anthocyanin chimes and purified Bhangra phytoliths. You can feel the thermal heat evaporated by every unique chord of the artist’s uplifting micrometry. A heatwave to cherish.

The TCR – Balrog: Similar to Kaleido Drive’s version of Ryu’s theme, The TCR doesn’t spend much time with diplomacy and immediately ventures into the piercing phragmoplasts of Balrog’s stage. Flangered hi-hats, pyrethrin-alloyed synth ogres, the electric current of methylbenzene guitars and molybdenized high voltage punches make the original BGM a mere vestige and lead to a fittingly electrifying neon lycopod in the big city.

The Warhorse – Vega: Los Angeles-based The Warhorse refashions Vega’s smoky bodega into a crystal temple with rotenone-powered sporophytes whose humongous strata and layers turn this place into a tachycardia-causing rhombohdral ribcage whose suprematism only grows when the original melody protrudes the colchicine lavabo cocktail. Violent and virulent, The Warhorse’s take runs on all cylinders, rocks the blocks off the stage and tries to overcome the paraphyletic spirit of the 90’s. A daunting cauldron.

Phaserland – Sagat: Detroit’s Ross aka Phaserland injects Sagat’s infamous "Tiger" exclamations into a shapeshifting profusion of chlorotic dimensions. The green jungle flutes are a lofty adjuvant to an already biomorphic photodissociation. Rhythmic alterations, aliphatic glints and ultramafic legato glows make a phoresy of the original that is as magical as it is tropical. The remix precisely pinpoints the lure of the original: here we have one of the most dangerous and largest fighters… situated in a locale of utter beauty. Chirality or chivalry?

Occams Laser – M. Bison: The barycenter is a solanum, the orogeny of the synths clandestine, but not as inhuman as expected; Occams Laser from the Isle of Wight offers a perihelic tropopause that completely detaches the background graphics from the aural vision that is the fighter itself. As is the case with Phaserland’s Sagat remix, M. Bison appears in a surprisingly suave, even debonair fashion whose homeostasis targets the soothing constituents and expels all pyroclastic elements.

Python Blue – Akuma: Akuma may only appear in the original arcade as well as in versions of more advanced video game consoles, but he is a foe to behold and rightfully introduces the listener to the Super Street Fighter II portion of Synth Fighters. Phython Blue puts together a mercurial cocktail of purified flutes, arpeggiated Hammond organs, mowing electric stokehold fermions and an upper midtempo chemotaxis whose chromodynamics only boost the tangible aura further.

Ex-Machina – Cammy: Southport, UK’s Ex-Machina paints a glistening retro version of Cammy that has nothing to do with the new incarnation that takes place in Street Fighter V. He stays close to the original vision, but makes sure to let the viscose droplets coincide with square lead aureoles that are doubled and tripled at various points, letting the polyphony resemble the aurora from the original stage. Sizzling gusts and potassium scrimshaw storms round off the British halide.

Renz Wilde – Dee Jay: Vancouver, Canada’s Renz Wilde goes all-in and ventures into the mucous tropics of Jamaica where he remixes Dee Jay’s strangely Flamenco-esque Reggae/Dancehall flowerage. The original theme is curious to begin with, but the artist further dissects the contrapuntal elements and pieces them together anew in front of a screaming Dee Jay. The sanguine-rubicund verve of the synths sees an increase in their decay; coupled with the puissance of the timbales and conga-oid drums, a humid cesspool of devotion is created. A mildly toxic permutation.

Stilz – Fei Long: I have hoped for a Far Eastern scope on Stilz’s version of Fei Long, and naturally, this is exactly what the listener receives. However, the synth artist from Calgary, Canada decides to create an antrum or system of caverns where the thin but layered synths, while strongly pentatonic, only appear as ignis fatuus flickers in an otherwise dark area. The velvet chimes and uprising chords in hatched colors then bring the remix back on track, both serving as healthy illuminants and making the cannelure an oneiric one.

Video Void – T. Hawk: Matthieu aka Video Void from France targets the ancient wisdom of T. Hawk in a remix whose chromaticity lives from the arid convulsion of a Funk guitar on the one hand, and a variety of square, tetragonal and monoclinic synths, their common marker being the cautiously phlegmatic undertone and inclination of hopelessness. The remix only depicts the crestfallen segments that have been prominent parts of the original already but revs up the reticulation and interplay between them. Oh the quandary and compunction that is the character of T. Hawk.

Beatbox Machinery – Bonus Stage: No more fighters. It’s over. But there’s a variety of stages that button mashers still see as greatly entertaining series of sidesteps and adjacent trails, and that’s the bonus stage. Whether it is about cars or barrels, the music is the same, expertly inherited by Beatbox Machinery and made into a crystalline cotyledon that breathes the bustling frenzy of the 80’s and marries these convulsive catenae with a diaphanous undercurrent of helical emanations, euphonious multiplexes and heterodyned euphoria. A great endpoint.


Synth Fighters is a great compilation that would have faced a dangerous opponent if the presented material was either too closely attached to the originals or dangerously far away from the possibility of mere recognition. Rest assured though that the complete roster is aware of the endless discussion of what makes a remix a good one. The variety of approaches is mostly delightful, even though there is only so much you can do as an artist: swapping the textures, polishing the surfaces, changing the patterns, revving up the punchiness. On a per-song basis, however, the surprise level is huge, whether it is on faithful adaptations that stay willfully close to the original (Alpharisc’s Ken, Stallone Jones’ Blanka and Syntax’s Player Select come to mind) or transform their gestalts into almost recalcitrantly opposing forces (The TCR’s Balrog and Von Hertzog’s Dhalsim). The old adage that there is something for everyone in a compilation is highly poisonous and lets the listener think of the famous mixed bag. Synth Fighters does contain something for every synth lover alright, even subsidiary New Age and ancillary Ambient leptons found their way to the bedlam. Street Fighter fans, video game fans, even vaporwavers shall investigate. These fighters are worth your attention even 20+ years later.


Further listening and reading: 

  • You can fetch (name your price) and stream Synth Fighters at Bandcamp
  • 30th Floor Records on Twitter: @30thfloorvault


Vaporwave Review 098: Various Artists – Synth Fighters (2015). Originally published on Jun. 22, 2015 at