Darkwave Album Review: "Zero One" by Void Stare
I listen to a lot of synthwave and related genres and I can honestly say that I’ve never heard throat singing mixed in until I listened to Void Stare’s Zero One album. The throat singing is just one aspect of Zero One that I found interesting. In fact, in terms of the sounds that he uses and the way in which Void Stare approaches the creation of darksynth music, there were quite a few factors that caught my ear.
Throat singing is something with which I’ve long had a fascination. I started hearing it done by groups from the nation of Tuva like Huun Huur Tu and Yat-Kha. The style of throat singing that Void Stare does sounds like the deep Tuvan style known as kargyraa. It is incredibly dark, deep and rough sounding and adds an element of extreme weight and darkness to the music. I love synths but no synth on Earth can produce the sound that Void Stare’s voice makes on this album. It hits just the right level of crypt-like darkness to create an oppressive atmosphere.
There are moments of sung lyrics on Zero One as well. There aren’t many, but the moments that are there seem effective to me. The song “Soldier” has the words of a soldier dying on Mars and starting up into the sky and seeing Earth while “Seethe” talks of “tearing out my false eyes to dissipate your disguise. “ They’re only bursts of singing but they get the point across nicely.
This album also generates darkness through the rough, harsh and crunching synth sounds that move in the background of many of the tracks. There are also metallic bangs and clanks that serve to emphasize various parts of the music. Along with the bass growl of Void Stare’s voice, there’s also a heavy electronic bass presence to add further depth and weight to the proceedings.
Occasionally there are moments of sparkle and glow to Zero One. The delicate passages are somehow made much more light by their contrast with the wells of growling, churning and roaring noise that move underneath them. There aren’t many of them but Void Stare makes good use of them when they happen.
I’ll take the time to break down Zero One and talk about the tracks that I was most intrigued by and why I was drawn to them.
“Crusader” has a demonic sounding background full of darkness and weight over which twisting, nervous synth sounds cry out. The atmospherics of this track are very much those of looking over one’s shoulder in the dark. Void Stare’s throat singing has a deep, droning quality to it and sometimes it’s hard to tell where the synthetic sounds end and Void Stare’s throat singing begins. It sounds as if some evil presence has taken hold of his vocal chords and is making itself known. It is a sound full of doom and intensity.
There is a chest-rumbling depth about the throat singing on “Soldier” that is combined with a martial beat and bass that, like some unstoppable force, moves under everything and drowns it in heavy shadow. A wandering high synth melody winds through the track, sounding threatening in a more subtle way. This is a track with lyrics and Void Stare sings about a dying soldier on Mars, thinking of the Earth that he’ll never see again. The mixture of portentous sounds and sadness is a powerful one here, emphasized by that wandering melody.
“Rachel” is an interesting mixture of light synth chords, static filled distortion and the deep growl of Void Stare’s throat singing.There’s an unsettling feeling to this track and the synths drift into a rather melancholy melodic moments with the darker elements throbbing underneath those moments. The glistening droplets of the arps are strongly contrasted with the heaving danger expressed by the darkness flowing through the track.
There’s something metallic, solid and thunderous about “Cyberspace.” The synth that rises over the top plays minor chords over percussion that has something of an ancient quality about it. Void Stare’s dark throat singing moves through it, making a sound like a stone crypt being opened. There are delicate cascades of synth sparkle over top of the weight and depth expressed by the bass, percussion and throat singing.
“Technomancer” has a textured, crunchy background along with chest-thumping drums and staccato bursts of synth sound. There is an interesting nasal quality to the lead synth, as it moves left to right, ear to ear. This is a track full of tech-y sounds that distort and break along with a sensation of substantial mass to produce a feeling of power and threat.
I firmly believe that synthwave and related genres can only survive through innovation. The mixture of dark elements with Void Stare’s throat singing on Zero One decidedly expands the genre by moving into a place where human sounds begin to merge with electronics in unique and interesting ways. I hope he’ll continue to push boundaries with his unique sound.