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Cyberpunk Album Review: "Master Machine" by Ectoplague

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Album Impressions

Ectoplague’s Master Machine seethes with technological darkness and weaves together layers of interacting synth sounds with cavernous bass and powerful drums. There is a creeping sense of danger that permeates the atmosphere of this album. Ectoplague infuses Master Machine with the feeling of dark, dystopian cities ruled by evil technology.

The first thing that I enjoyed about Master Machine is the way in which synthesizers have been woven together to create ear catching sonic textures and patterns. There's a good mixture of darker, heavier sounds and lighter, more shining moments. Overall the interactions between the shadows and the light are well balanced, but there's always the feeling that the ominous threat that lurks in the darkness is one step ahead of the light.

Another element of this album that I enjoy is the storytelling through sound. There are a few lyrical moments in which the tale of master machine is told, but Ectoplague primarily uses the melodic and harmonic components of the album to lay out the story. The bright triumph of some of the melodic parts are offset by the dismal, harsh sounds that produce feelings of dread and horror associated with the dominance of evil technology.

I also enjoy the power and weight of the supporting drums and bass on this album. The extreme heft and depth of the bass as it surges below the other musical elements keeps the darkness nearby. The drums shape and direct the other parts of the music, underpinning them and keeping them moving forward.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“System Surge” comes into being with a single, deep drumbeat and a hectic rush of synth notes. The mad sonic rush repeats and the drums drive on and a twirling, elevated melodic line whirls over the solid drumbeat. I enjoy the angular quality to the lead melody as it moves in a slicing pattern over the unrelenting beat. A hard-edged, moving bass line shifts in blocks of sound below the leaping synth that feels nervous, yet somehow triumphant over the drum heartbeat and the slowly oscillating bass pulse.

The lead melody becomes a dancing whirlwind as a repeating nasal sound moves with it, cutting in and out. A wriggling, tight line of shifting synth moves over a high sound before the drums smack into the track again.

Thick walls of jagged sound move under the worried-sounding lead synth melody. A harsh, rushing wall of notes charges in over a slow kick drum and now the tempo speeds up before the track rushes to a close with a triumphant, glowing and threatening melody.

Deep, slow, expanding bass throbs as it joins brighter flashes of synth that echo out along with a round, floating feeling to start out “Mainframe City. ” A hard bass oscillation writhes and the metallic, shining lead synth carries a drifting melody. I enjoy the way that the melody wanders over the shifting weight of the underlying synth. A chiming, minor key melodic line comes in to echo out over the driving force of the drums.

A more delicate line of hollow, floating synth carries the melody as it wanders along smoothly over the bass oscillation. A slower synth part flows in over darker chords with flashes of minor key light. The jumping drumbeat launches once more as the winding, worried synth is now joined by an echoing series of floating notes. The track fades out as the lead melody jangles and shines over the depths below it.

“Grid Escape” comes to life with a groaning, growling synth that pulses evenly before the solid heartbeat of the drums moves with a nasal, medium high synth pattern. The track accelerates and the synths carry a powerful series of chords. I am drawn to the way in which a raised melodic line cries out in a climbing series of notes, bursting over the surging power below them. A full, glowing synth carries a whirling series of arpeggios over the heaving weight below them.

An elevated, twisted synths carries a pattern of notes that move in waves while shimmering notes crescendo and the beat keeps jumping. Crystal chimes start to shine while a rippling arpeggio spins along with them. The main melodic pattern echoes over gritty, sawtoothed bass before the arpeggios rise and fall again. The crystal synth glimmers and spins quickly before the music ends on the main melodic idea.

Over a deep well of bass, a moving line of tense synth is joined by a delicately drifting, glimmering arpeggio to open “Cyborg Gladiators. “ A dense, medium-high minor key synth plays a chord pattern, interspersed by sharper, more brittle notes that form a secondary melodic pattern. The kick drum throbs and the surge of bass and drums is joined by lost choral voices.

I am a fan of the way that the angular, minor key pattern of notes forms a contrasting brightness to the chords that have a Middle Eastern modal feeling to them. The track moves to a swirling, choral background and rapidly spinning arpeggio before the driven, shadowed lead melody comes in again. The choir is doubled with a nasal synth as it winds down.

“Master Machine” kicks off with a threatening void of deep bass and a raised, twisting synth. The bass depths are extreme and the high synth repeats a feverishly shining pattern of notes as chimes sparkle briefly in the background. Blocks of elevated, full synth wriggle wildly and a robotic voice calls out over the throbbing beat. I like the added cyberpunk feeling that the voice contributes to the track.

The track returns to a hypnotic, repeating pattern of notes before the slowly descending, dense, synth dances in tight lines over waves of shiny sound. The track drifts into an echoing segment and the beat keeps on pounding.

The high synth cries out in a nasal voice and again the waves of synth, jump and pulse in time to the beat. I enjoy the sense of threat in the lyrics as the driving, bouncing lines of sound all intertwine before it all floats into silence.

Reverent choral sounds move along with deep, thick bass far below them to start off “Attack on Central Brain.” The bass extends in slowly moving lines, gruff and striking, as the solid beat guides the track along. A repeating, swirling line of worried sound is joined by the trumpeting, full synth carrying a quickly shifting, leaping melody while the choral voices add a sense of majesty that I find pleasing.

The lead synth carries an agitated, whirling solo before the triumphant, trumpeting synth melody returns to sing out over the darkness so far below it. The drums throb slowly, choral voices crying out into the void as the nervous, cascading synth writhes. Now the beat charges hard, the lead synth wheeling and spinning over it as the drums thunder and the bass snarls.

“Deactivation” opens with bass that rumbles from the void and a rapidly repeating, computerized synth line moves over it. A darkly majestic lead synth carries a victorious melody over the relentless drum pulse. There’s a drum fill before a synth tumbles down through the track while the relentless beat and bass growl on.

I enjoy how the lead melody is uplifting in a twisted way, crying out as the unrelenting power of the lower musical elements supports it. A medium-low, chiming, metallic synth repeats a shimmering, threatening musical pattern. The track ends on the main melody, surging over the void below.

Rapid arpeggios dance through the track and an elevated, nervous synth twists to bring “The Crimson Eclipse” into existence. The beat charges and a minor key, ancient feeling melody cries out on as the drums hit hard along with the oscillating bass. Powerful, deep narration tells the end of the story before a classically inspired, glowing melody kicks in.

I am drawn to the surging throb of this next segment as the melody sings out over the oscillating bass and drums. The lead shifts to a choppy melodic section over the thumping drums and bright arpeggios whirl to add to the motion of the track. I enjoy the rather symphonic feel to the string-like synth that writhes out the melody over the heaving weight underneath.

Conclusion

Master Machine is an album that steeps itself in the darkness of a techno-dystopia through a complex, layered mixture of synth sounds and other musical components. Ectoplague creates a compelling, powerful sense of atmosphere and takes listeners on an intense auditory journey.

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