Best track: momentum
click album cover to listen
In review today is Courage the latest album by Sonic Gap a synthwave artist from Sweden. The album will be released independently on Friday the 29th of November. Let’s dive straight in. Track one 'A New Life' kicks off dropping us into a square wave paradise. The track makes you feel beautifully, like you’re floating through space. The drums are thick, punchy and wide open giving way to the epic instrumentation and melodies that give connotations of classical music.
'Funky Artifacts' comes across as a stomper for sure with a driving kick drum. The percussion is really interesting and gives a much needed human touch in this day and age of synthwave. Sonic Gap’s voice makes its first appearance on the album, it’s really well suited to the track and the reverse reverbs are the icing on the cake.
'Tetris Life' is a regal sounding Italo disco esque number featuring male vocoder vocals. Notably the female spoken word sections are a clever touch because Sonic Gap has reversed the roles. The male vocals would usually take that seat in the 80’s. Overall the track is a hazy, retrospectively sexy ride and the songwriting is on point to get across that ‘Vogue’ feel.
'Highway 1' is an instant throw back to the classic Outrun gaming days. The pulsewidth modulation swirling around the arp catches your ear in such a pleasing way. The whole track is musically interesting with unexpected chord changes keeping you on your toes.
'Set and forget’s' acoustic drums sit beautifully beneath the bass meticulously melded with the Oberheim brass.
Although, you can’t help but want the vocals to pop a bit more when the chorus rolls around. This is a chilled out track that transports you to long lost summers that forever reside in your mind.
Spinning onto 'Neon Lights', you’re greeted by heavy Phil Collins vibes, the shimmering pads and percussion set such a reflective atmosphere. The bass picks up and the track leans back as you drive through night city in the rain.
'Momentum’s' pulsating bassline and chord progressions are very reminiscent of something straight out of Scarface. It has a very classic vibe, Sonic Gap himself says he took inspiration from Moonlight Sonata and it’s very clear to hear that he wears his influences on his sleeve.
Now we have the track 'Barking', it’s chock full of percussive plucks and Van Halen esque Jump polysynths, the lyrical content leaves more to be desired ‘Barking, because we want to, because we have to’. The vocoder is cleverly sculpted to give the impression of a synthetic dog barking, interesting!
On to 'Influencer', there’s a definite cyberpunk vibe here, albeit one routed firmly towards the retro side of the sub genre. It isn’t the future punk kind you may be accustomed to hearing in the past few years but it does have a real retro charm to it and that lead is searing and triumphant!
'Shadow man' flows on from the bass heavy cyberpunk vibe to a track that was sent to truly funk you up. The chorused guitars are apt and sound likes the musical equivalent of stained glass windows. Again I feel there’s more to be desired in the lyrics department but there’s a really cool boogie man gon’ get you kinda vibe which reminds me of ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’.
The track 'Birds' has intertwining arpeggios and a soothing god-ray-like pad gleaming along throughout the track. The beat is heavy and pounding, it’s almost EDM like. There’s a glossy lead that steals your attention away like it’s singing. The creative filtering on the percussion is a hidden treasure on this track and is a nice treat for those who listen closely and carefully. Oh and the bird noises are a neat touch, a real credit to Sonic Gap’s sound design skills.
'No Guts No Glory' makes a bold entrance with the bouncing octave bass leading the way. The acoustic drums sounds very distinguished and complete the tracks stadium filling vibe. The synth strings stab away elevating the lively, positive message of Courage that Sonic Gap is conveying in this album closing anthem.
To conclude this review, production wise there’s a flow to this album, it starts off soft and dynamic, transforming to take on a subtly modern sound by the end. The synth work, the use of analogue synthesisers and acoustic percussion was a really nice surprise and the sound design in general evokes nostalgia in waves. The mix was fantastic with everything feeling warm and having a satisfying weight to it, this was consistent throughout the whole album so props for that. The sound design on tracks like Birds and Barking was inventive and interesting, I’d love to hear more of this in future releases which ever decade Sonic Gap decides to explore next.
However, the lyrics I felt had room for improvement, I found them to be repetitive and wanting something with a bit more substance than the simplistic messages they conveyed. I wanted those messages to be explored extra creatively to ‘build the scene’ for lack of a better phrase. I felt the album leant too heavily on 80’s tropes, but at the same time this is synthwave and surely that can’t be construed as a bad thing?
I guess for me reason why I felt that way is that it tarnished the thematic flow of the album. Rather than a cohesive story and a flowing experience, it felt like a collection of songs that reference the pop culture staples from the 80’s era. Overall, I’d say if you love your retrowave made with unwavering love and truly authentic production qualities and 80’s pop culture (no brainer, who doesn’t!), then you will find pleasure in spotting the influences among the tracks that populate Courage. jack gregory 6/10
a visual representation of the album:
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