I’ve just sat down and wrapped my headphones round my ears. The first track Welcome opens up with a beautifully atmospheric introduction to the release. To be honest I wasn’t expecting what happened next. We moved onto the second track which is the title track Synth Ranger and I was kind of expecting the track to drop Into all out cyber punk mayhem but instead it takes a more relaxed approach eventually leading to a solo and jump-up staccato lead lines that really get me going, I like intricately thought out rhythms on my synth lines. Pole Position opens with dramatic racing sound effects fading into modulation, I really appreciated that! It sounded absolutely awesome, something I don’t hear too often. The track is off beat and the crowd cheers really add to this. There are some satisfyingly hard hitting tom fills in there for good measure (really bad tenuous drum joke for you there guys don’t say I don’t surprise you!). On to track three, Rewind brings the age old cassette insertion sound effect. I will never tire of hearing that sound because it just takes me away to another dimension, lets you know you’re going back to the future...you know? However, I feel like people who have been around the scene for a while will be super familiar with if not a little tired of it, especially when they insert their cassette, only to hear their cassette being inserted only extra loud. However, I digress, this is a track Dynamite Stranger showed me when we spoke before the review. I told him I loved the pop punk like vocals provided by Kelvin of Nightmares and Neon and having listened to the album so far I feel the track as a whole slots in perfectly with the upbeat feel of the album so far. Thematic win, also I haven’t mentioned it yet but the production on all of these tracks is genuinely fantastic. On to the next track Fast forward… Rousing 16th bass line check, square wave arpeggiator check, rhythmic modulation misleading us into a false sense of beat direction subsequently fooling us and providing an amazing release into an awesome beat… Check! The portamento used on these synths is added tastefully to create a really eargasmic laser like effect which I quite appreciate. The drums are beefy, the beats are thick (thicc?), groovy , and I always appreciate a panned hat! Damn this song just keeps on going, the driving rhythm makes me not want it to stop. As I move Into The Void, I find more sample work and a big fat groove to sink my teeth into. The high and low layered bass riffs peppered throughout this track are so cool, it's some really nice sound design guys. Drop time and we just keep on going, I'm sat here though and I can’t help but focus on those basses. Reverting back to my reviewer role I took a moment to appreciate the leads, but the bass line and uber bolstering beat takes precedence this time. I just want to take a moment to point out that, remember before I said this album was upbeat? Well what I really meant was it was upbeat in a musical way but also feel wise, it’s happy and it makes you want to move. Right after Rewind we stayed upbeat but we took a turn into the night and things have been getting progressively ‘ominous’ melody wise, the basses have gotten super low and the tracks aren’t as happy go lucky and they’re more groove orientated. It’s very cool from an album composition perspective. Anyway… Dimensions feels like a break from the high energy on record thus far. It’s carefully considered but still retains that ominous, up to no good vibe which I like but I’m not in love with it. While it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just isn’t grabbing me. I think part of the reason I'm struggling to enjoy it as much as the other tracks is that I’ve just started to realise that most of the synth patches being used from track to track are quite similar if not the same and I feel that they could’ve been experimented with a bit more to open up the soundscape so to speak. As a stand alone track it would be fine, but from an album play through perspective my ears want some variation in sound design will start to look for that.
Moving into penultimate territory we have Xero , three things making me immediately enjoy this track: A big fat distorted bass line, tension building and those laser like portamento leads returning from Fast Forward. Okay if it wasn’t a killer sound I’d apply the same logic from the Dimensions about similar sounds being used but in this instance the synth patch in question is exciting to my ears, and quite simply awesome. I kind of keep expecting this track to explode into something larger than it gives out but in that lies constraint from Dynamite Stranger as an artist, he clearly has a vision and this album has a heavy concept and because of that I respect him for writing for the bigger picture. I could be wrong but that’s what I feel is going on here. We arrive at the last track of the album Splinters, it kicks in with some super wide, face-melting fuzz bass and a classic square wave arpeggiator. What's that? Two arpeggiators?! The play out between the two arps dancing around one another is a really cool touch and proves what Dynamite Stranger has been doing since the beginning of this album adding musical flair. The track has an apt finality in its melody and finally after we get the sample ring out "We were so lost and then it happened” the track drops to the last dance and we finish the album. My overall thought’s are that I think the album has some heavy hitters, tracks like Rewind and Fast Forward show a real love for the art of making synthwave, but Dimensions that I personally feel was a weak link in an otherwise solid chain. Not because it slowed the pace, it was because of the dynamics, I just felt like I needed a break from it because of the instrumentation. Maybe I’m getting old in my 27 years but again this is all personal and you may love it. That leads me on to say that I think the album would’ve benefitted from a wider selection of synth patches and dynamics. The production was really clean, the drums hit hard and everything had it’s own space to breathe. Though I did notice a bass dropout in the last track but apart from that excellent work producing this record and getting it to sound the way it does. I feel like there was an underlying story to the whole thing with the way it shifted in tonality, and would love a companion comic to go with it, just something to bring out a story a little more within the album. All in all Dynamite Stranger has put together a commendable release with Synth Ranger. Did I mention that the album art is absolutely phenomenal? Just take a look at it! Now, I’ve made the decision to not score releases anymore, but rather tell you how I feel. I think you should pick this one up because it’s actually really good considering the gripes I had with it but I’m just a person with an opinion, and so are you so go check it out! There's a lot to like about this record. It releases digitally today February 29th and will be releasing on vinyl shortly afterwards although I don’t have an ETA. Support your synthwave scene! ⚡️
Jack // Pretty Glass Folk 💜✨
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