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Synth Album Review: "Afterlife" by Electronic Warbear

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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 Impressions

Electronic Warbear’s Afterlife is a sonic exploration of the tale of “The Hacker” who re-awakens to a world that he destroyed “in a vain attempt to change it for the better” as Electronic Warbear explains.

The story of the “shambles of the city he knew” and its dangers are unfolded in sound. Electronic Warbear creates a palette of contrasting auditory textures, melodies, harmonies and synth sounds that reflects the complexity of the emotions experienced by “The Hacker.”

One of the stronger features of Afterlife is how Electronic Warbear skillfully interweaves all of the synth sounds on the album to create emotional responses. He often leavens darker, technological sounds with sparkling synth that shines like lost stars or intersperses tracks that contain darker feelings with more ethereal and ambient sounding pieces to create a sense of balance.

There are well-constructed melodies on Afterlife as well. They are clear and well-defined and they have one my favourite qualities in a melody which is a tinge of melancholy. Even if they feel positive, there’s always some sense of sadness left in their wake. To me, it represents the pain “The Hacker” feels for the damage he’s done in an attempt to save the world that ultimately failed.

I also enjoy how Electronic Warbear nails the sonic imagery on this album, no matter what he’s aiming for. The tracks that are meant to be full of a more dystopian, shadowy feeling manage to express it well as do the tracks that are designed to glow and coruscate, caress and enfold the listener.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Back On Earth” starts off with a rush of high tech sound and a distant beat moving into open space. The background sounds are hard, glitchy and almost insectile as hollow synths with a pan pipe voice rise in a drifting pattern over dark grumbles of bass and broken drums.

Vocal-sounding synths grow in choral waves over the slicing, distorted sounds below them.The pan pipe synth rises in wandering patterns over the piano notes that move darkly over a deep bed of bass. The reverent vocal synths move with the echoing, shifting piano notes before fading into silence.

A medium-high synth washes into “Chasing Nightmares” with a shadowy, nervous sound as the cascading drumbeat and patterns of computerized, medium-high synth notes flutter over the top of the thick bass backing. I am pulled in by the ghostly, roaming piano notes that glide over a twisting, rising sonic backdrop that adds tension to the track. Elevated notes trip and slide through the music as the pulsating synths oscillate and eerie sounds slip along above them. I enjoy how lost, nervous and dark this track feels.

“The Tower” comes to life as intensely deep, heavy bass rebounds and the drums tick and throb along. Floating, celestial sounds move in slow waves over the full bass. The softly gliding, melancholy main melody is carried by an open-voiced synth with a shiny quality to it. There’s an interlocking background of bass and beats that help propel the track forward.

I enjoy the way that the melody becomes more tenuous as it’s accompanied by the grumbling distortion of electric guitar to provide contrast. There’s a similarly uncertain feeling to the guitar melody as it tremulously winds through the track. There’s a lull as crystalline notes flicker into open space and float in filmy, ephemeral clouds.The active bass line shapes the music as the guitar swells up along with a slipping metallic sound and reverent choral synths singing above it all.

Piano notes with a triumphant feeling march into “Afterlife” to kick things off. The piano carries powerful chords as the massive, solid drumbeat hits the music along with bright, computerized arpeggios that spin around it. The track dissolves into static noise and drums before a synth bursting with light carries a warm, rising melodic line.

A warm, melodic line is carried on a glimmering synth as driving piano chords climb over the technological sounding mid-tone arpeggios. There’s a break into rushing static and pulsing drums before a softly yearning synth shines into and through the music in a deeply enjoyable way for me. Small flashes of shimmering synth swell as the beat throbs and shifts, delicate notes floating out as the piano pattern repeats and air rushes in smoothly along with water.

“Thought I Was” comes into being with the distant soft sounds of rain and elegant, ethereal notes drifting through cavernous space as a full drum sound adds its heart beat, bass dropping in as vocal samples also float into space. I find the contrast between the mist tinged background and the ranting vocal sample quite powerful. There’s smoothness and glide to the track, the synths softly wandering through and the rain washing out into quiet.

A descending, shiny pattern of richly rounded synth and a slowly pulsing drum beat open “Edge of Nowhere.” There’s a timeless feeling to the melody as the gigantic drum sound throbs below the active bass. Juan Cezar (from Frisky Monkey) has a voice full of ghostly, deep tragedy as it moves out over the shimmering arpeggios, steady and gliding beat and throbbing bass. I enjoy the emotive quality of the vocal melody.

Seersha’s strong voice is expressive and trembling, as the instrumental melody twists and pitch bends. Juan Cezar’s aching, deep vocals add depth to the song, underpinned by the arcing arpeggios and driving beat. The roving, gliding lead synth melody returns as nasal, round synth carries the quick arpeggios that rapidly spin into the track as the relentless drums keep moving.

The Hacker’s story, upon which the album is based, is well expressed by this song’s lyrics. There’s a feeling of oppression as he talks about how the “midnight sun beating down on me shows no semblance of mercy.” A strong feeling of being trapped is expressed as he says, “Try as we might we can't seem to stop it.”

There’s a sense of futility in the lyric, “Unable to make a decision, we’re driving off the edge of nowhere” which only increases as he talks about “skirting the edge of desperation, hoping it will lead to somewhere.” He’s aimless as he drives with “no destination.”

Relief seems to be on the way as the darkness that approaches, “brings clarity, breaks my bonds, sets me free” but it’s short-lived as the “sudden eclipse comes over me, shrouding everything in mystery.”

His situation becomes clear and "reality breaks as the earth bakes” and he talks about how his car “tanks” as he is shaken and he’s “on all gas and no brakes.” The tension ramps up as he speaks of reaching the highest stakes for his life.

Ultimately he is on “the edge of a knife for this world's strife” and he asks if he’ll survive or die on the “longest drive to the afterlife…the endless ride to nowhere.”

“Lost In the Machine” begins with swirling breaths of synth that flicker as they move into the open space of the track while the oscillating bass adds more weight and depth to the music. There’s an effulgence to the music that adds a pleasing glow as it sweeps through the track. Delicate piano notes brush the surface of the music while the cosmic rush of sound drifts and rises in cloudy waves.

The drums lightly move into the track and the piano carries soft, caressing notes that grow in strength as a darker tension touches the music. Shadow cloaked, intertwining notes shift under the piano as it flits over top. The track’s open feeling is touched by the fullness of growing piano chords while the other sonic elements glide along with it.

Echoing and distant sounds flutter out into a vast sonic space as “Fighting in the Alley” commences. The far away sounds are joined by full, more lambent synths growing underneath them. I am drawn to the darker shading as the bass line shifts and all of the elements flow easily. A sharper edged synth buzzes softly into the music in a pattern of notes that reaches a crescendo while a stuttering drum n’ bass beat adds its energy.

A gliding flow of caressing synths makes for a contrast to the broken beats. The creaky, buzzing synth is now joined by sunlit chords to support it and flashes of spinning , metallic sound. Triumphant, sweeping chords on a medium-low synth carry a climbing melody f hope as the beat stutters and we fade to the minor key twist to the melody and trickling watery patterns of synth notes fade out.

"The Space Between” launches with weighty bass, smoothly moving drums and an undulating, meandering pattern of piano notes. A nasal synth with a pleasingly rounded quality carries a continual wave of iridescent sound that washes over the track. A series of climbing piano notes rises above the skipping beat and the well of supporting bass. The medium-low synth carries flowing, swirling pattern of hypnotic sound and I am compelled by the enfolding qualities of the music as they’re accentuated by the openness of the soundstage around them.

A tide of silky, luminous sound stretches out in planes of extended notes that sail into the music to start off “Dreaming.” I felt as though I was floating in deep, blue water as the beat ticks along with soothing ease. The extended notes glimmer like sun on water, clouds of creamy sound pillowing the ears. Planing, light chords move out into the misty sonic space and a steady flow of bass shapes the music as the distant piano touches the music before the track fades away.

“Crossover” is awakened as rain falls softly and airy, hollow, sweet sounds breeze into the music. The beat glides in to bolster the track which is rich with embracing feelings. I feel myself getting lost in a world of calm and peace while reverent and open sounds, like a crystal choir, move with consummate warmth.

The piano lightly touches the surface of the track with sparkling synth notes high above and a very slight static-y edge below. The beat throbs and the glassy, singing synth sounds move in a melodic line that makes the tension in my shoulders dissolve. The soft touch of the music wraps all around me and carries me away on the tides of ambient sound that fade into rain and quiet.

Conclusion

Afterlife is a showcase for Electronic Warbear's ability to use a tapestry of synthesized sounds to create music that is expressive, interwoven and full of emotional depth. I find it to be quite a strong synth-based creation and hope to hear more from him in future.

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