Synth Album Review: Alpha Chrome Yayo, Twirl
If there’s one thing that’s certain about Alpha Chrome Yayo, it’s that he’s constantly extending the range and scope of what retro-influenced, synth-based music can be and the sonic territory that it can explore. His latest album, Twirl, is even more innovative than his last album Komorebi and that’s saying something. This time he says he wanted to explore more ‘90s oriented synth sounds and take cues from some greats like Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre and Ryuichi Sakamoto. There’s also a strong dose of the kind of rich production that could be found on Sega CD video game soundtracks.
This sort of drifting, warm, shimmering and scintillating synth music is something I absolutely adore, so I think I’m quite biased in favour of loving this album. As it turns out, my bias is perfectly justified because does ACY ever deliver with Twirl.
The first thing that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go is the sheer depth and luxuriant warmth of the sounds on Twirl. ACY’s choices of synths, pads, guitar, bass and percussion simply added to the aural sensation of being carried along on an oceanic tide across coral reefs and over deeper blue waters. Even when a slight hint of darkness creeps into the album, there’s still a sense of tranquility that pervades everything.
Anyone who is familiar with ACY’s music knows that he’s a dab hand on guitar and it shows here. There’s a melodic and harmonic complexity here along with well-selected guitar tones that mean when he adds guitar to his tracks, it really enhances the overall experience. I especially liked the tropical-feeling sound of the guitar at the beginning of Port Mado.
Of course, synths are front and centre on Twirl. ACY has many layers of great synth sounds and each of them adds a unique flavour to the album. I was also quite appreciative of his soloing capabilities on the album. He has some really tasty solos that have a jazz or jazz-fusion quality to them. This really harks back to some of the Japanese Sega CD composers, many of whom were heavily influenced by jazz fusion groups in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
It’s time now for me to give you a run down on the tracks that I felt stood out for me. Every track here is superb and I’m merely giving you my subjective impressions of the ones that truly made me sit up and take notice.
The first track, 1994pm, is such a strong piece of music. It’s dominated by the smooth, aquatic sounds that glide through it. The steady and flowing rhythm underpins glistening arps and a deeply engaging, warm and beautiful melody. The introduction of the electric guitar adds a slightly sharper edge to the proceedings and truly reminds me of the guitar work one might hear in a Sega CD game.
Abyssal Playin’ generated a strong image of divers floating over the deep blue of the open ocean as a dolphin intertwines with them. The track kicks of with a dramatic piano line and heavier bass sounds. A light, dancing synth flows into the track and clear chimes play the catchy melody. The whole track has a playful quality and the second synth solo has a strong jazz fusion feeling to it.
I've already mentioned the almost tropical sound of the guitar that opens Port Mado, but I also quite enjoyed the unique sound of the piano that drifts around in a slightly muted fashion in this track. It isn’t just the opening guitar sound that I dug but also the great, energetic guitar solo that ACY plays on this track. Again I feel like the Sega CD influence has to be acknowledged in the nature of the guitar playing and the overall polish of the album.
Hadopelagia is perhaps my favourite track on the album. It creates the strong sensation of hanging suspended in a column of clear, blue water for me. The delicate synths with crystal chimes and a fluting sound softly weave a melody. A sensation of utter calm and ease seizes me when I hear this track. It evokes such deep emotion in me as it carries me along.
As you can see, this is an album that really touched me. The production quality, selection of synths and guitar, atmosphere and emotional timbre all combined to produce an aquatic journey of the imagination that I thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot recommend Twirl highly enough! Dear readers, buy this album!