My review of SynSUN’s new album «Phoenix» out on Starsound Records last month is available on psynews.org
Greece, April 2006
Starsound Records, SSCD10
SynSUN — Phoenix
Potentially biased review warning: I know one of SynSUN members (Vax) by ICQ. However I’m not interested in lying you about the release. Well, just have this in mind.
1 Tron 145
2 Prelude 145
3 Forward Stream 145
4 Reborn 141
5 Meta Dream 145
6 Infected 145
7 Enter Sandman 145
8 Phoenix 145
9 Mami 101
10 Magic Fly 120
SynSUN is finally back with a new album “Phoenix”. It’s a 10-track journey into what SynSUN thinks music should sound like. Eight tracks are fast full on tracks and two more are chill tracks.
Some say that when you got too many melodies it starts to be too pop-sweet and looses what we all like about trance. And when you listen to Astrix or Vibe Tribe (which I, personally, like, actually) you can even agree with them. SynSUN proves that trance can be melodic, and still sound serious and completely fresh. Their style has evolved considerably since “Symphonic Adventures”. While SynSUN, as far as I know, calls their music “dark full on”, I would argue on that. It’s not dark, it’s very positive, emotional music. Please don’t decide it’s cheesy, in no way it is. The new album is much cleaner and lighter than the previous one. But light in its mind, it’s very advanced in the way it sounds, and clever in the way it is structured. Still having much common with symphonic music, this time it’s also gets one step closer to dancefloor, making sure you would enjoy it independently on circumstances in which you happen hear it. (However, no standard “poppadom” bass lines will you hear.)
“Lemme take you thru the trax”, as they say ;-)
1. Tron first wants to scare you with big chords which would fit a walk down the graveyard, but quite soon you leave the graveyard and enter a night city. They love those voice-ish samples, sure you are downtown by now. At 2:36 a great fat synth starts its play, however I would want to emphasize the lower frequencies, to make them feel even nicer here. First to replace the killer, the “sound from heaven” is introduced by an anxious melody. On our way we meet some monster trying to tell us something, but the voice is distorted so you never know what is was all about :-) Now familiar with that awesome heaven sound, you should be prepared for the magic dreamy melody poured in your head. OK, no one cares if you are, here it is. And the finisher melody at 7:00 just has to sound cheesy, hey, listen to it, but no it doesn’t, instead it makes you wish to hear all the next tracks asap!
2. Prelude starts with some kind of glamour deep techno ambience by hearing which you would not expect a 145 BPM kick ever to come. Indeed, add a couple of high-hats and your mum would enjoy this as a soundtrack for a Fashion TV show. But 25 seconds away from start, and a smiling clean-and-dry synth comes in, politely telling your mother this is not going to be exactly her favourite show. Simple but way so nice melodies come in mix replacing each other one by one, competing for some big prize, presumably. This track keeps smiling at you or, turn it the other way, make you smile at itself. Halfway through, and the SynSUN trademark voice-like sound is in the game. No breakdowns, no pause, no empty beats, melodies boast of themselves, until about a minute is left, and all of them are a little bit tired of the competition. But no reason to worry, the journey continues with…
3. Forward Stream is generally a quieter track than the previous two. It feels much slower, despite the same BPM count. Sounds form harmonies instead of melodies we had time to get used to. At 1:58 something starts to emerge Infected-Mushroom-way, but quickly changes its mind and we’re back to lazy rhythm. One minute later, after a small breakdown (first on the album) the bass line changes its mood and we are met by an even lazier part. At least at 3:55 the bass line starts to become nervous, changing pitch in unexpected but very welcome ways, and it all falls into a second small breakdown (not reminiscent of IM no more). Right after that we are back to rhythm, but anticipate no climax—it ends in the same mood as it starts, maybe with a little more sounds in. Not a bad one, but nothing so special. Or maybe I just need more listens?..
4. Reborn again attracts your mom’s attention for a couple of seconds with those warm sounds, but the solid bass line breaks her expectations; you yourself are invited instead. Reborn is very close to the previous track in its laziness, however it’s a little bit more atmospheric and has that morning feel into it, thus it has to be lazy, hasn’t it? Oh, and also it’s non-stop again. There’s a small simple melody in the middle, slightly converting and distorting on the way. Then it surprisingly disappears leaving us in the “morningness”. Once again, nothing special I was able to find.
5. Meta Dream has a very Isra-full-on-ish intro with a pad, some crystal clear fx, rather typical full on HP-filtered bass line. Then the bass line filter is released and a kick comes in—now it sounds a little more like Mr. Peculiar would, morninglishly and lazy, again. However, at 2:13 more anticipated SynSUN sounds are introduced through a small breakdown, and after some mocking at them they are in full effect, with kick and all that rhythmic stuff. The melody is not very striking here, but there is one. Quite a little and we are back into laziness. At 4:52 comes a new melody, quite simple but sounds very good being shifted all over the unexpected keys. It, and surrounding sounds, slightly develop in a good way, filling the space with themselves but staying modest, not screaming. This is one I like most amonst the “lazy three” (3, 4, 5).
6. Infected — the title is very strange. We all know that in psytrance world “Infected” means Infected Mushroom, but this has nothing to do with it. Did they dare to use this word in an unrelated sense? :-) Kidding here. OK, what we have here is a very bright track, close to today’s Israeli full on sound and even with some almost-euro pads. The bass line melody is the most pronounced here. No striking melodies in the first 2/3, but the overall sound is not boring; at 4:49 euro trance pad enters the mix, but it doesn’t take over the mix, it’s rather subtle. Closer to the end it’s back, a little louder. Being the most “pop” track on the album, this one is pop in a good sense of the word: it’s accessible and welcome, not stupid and cheesy.
7. Enter Sandman is again a track of slower-feel in it. Filled with sounds and pieces, that are rather incompatible, it’s actually a solid track. It’s darker than the others, starting at 2:05 with a pattern played at different keys for a long time, and as always the key shifts are non-standard, you wait for something else, and what you get is here to surprise you—in a good way. Really, SynSUN are masters of this kind of trick, taking you from pitch to pitch so that it’s good and unusual at the same time. I repeat myself, I know. But that’s the thing which you are faced with all over the album. At 4:22 a trademark “voice” starts to “sing”, later accompanied by more and more sounds, and finally a melody silhouettes from those. At 6:14 a new pattern is in with more unexpected key jumps; then at 7:46 it’s repeated with a good-by-itself, but completely out-of-tune sound,—and well that’s all.
8. Phoenix as a title track does its job right, to excel all the others. Starting with church bells (from a toy-church, likely) it quickly enters its tight phase, with very powerful kick and bass. Right from the start there’s an interesting melody, then another one, and then more and more melodies :-) My favourite one starts at 2:18. It’s astonishing how they make so many melodies fit, replacing each other, and all this doesn’t sound any childish or illogic. Another beautiful piece starts at 4:57, after which the melodies from are repeated and recombined. Brilliant track.
9. Mami is a slow track featuring a melody from Logic Mami, a fast track on “Symphonic Adventures” (Astral Projection used to love doing this), and a girl singing the Tatar language. I’m not much into this kind of music, so I’m not sure I can comment much on it. I can’t get rid of the feeling it’s way too slow, apparently because I’m used to hearing this melody faster.
10. Magic Fly gets even farther away from the trance mood (though being faster then Mami). This one features live electric guitar played by Vax and reminds me of Mike Oldfield works. Compress it less and it will sound o’70s. This doesn’t make it bad, just not my cup of tea.
I don’t like it when all psytrance artists finish their full on albums with slower tracks, and this one makes no exception. I would like it better without Mami and Magic Fly, which just don’t fit in here (to my taste anyway). Given this we are left with just 8 tracks, as much as on previous album, and I want more :-)
All in all a very good album, being good and original at the same time (which rarely happen to meet). My personal favourites are Prelude and Phoenix, as you may have guessed earlier. Either you personally like it or not, this is high quality stuff. No track is made by formula, when 2/3 of it nothing happens, then after breakdown you hear a melody and that’s “climax”; no that. Enjoy!
(No ratings, because they are not informative at all, when everyone gives 7.5 for an average album and 9.5 for a “killer” album. If you wanna know if it’s good for you, read the whole text and maybe you can guess then.)