Synth Album Review: Baldocaster, "Mirage"
Mirage is an album that does indeed have a certain quality of unreality that flickers on the edges of perception. Baldocaster creates vignettes of otherworldly places on this album that mesh to form a cohesive whole. This is an album that is in the stream of synthwave, but it establishes a unique sound that transcends the clichéd and derivative.
Mirage is tinged by a dream-like perception of the world. Each track seems to explore a different world and state of being. There’s an overall feeling of moving across unique sonic landscapes that, as a whole, feel like something viewed through the mirage for which the album is named.
The common sonic elements that tie Mirage together come from a feeling of all of the different musical elements moving through expansive spaces. There are long sweeping notes and chords that drift through each track to establish that sensation along with the way in which all of the tracks generate a sense of smoothness from flowing deep bass and drums that aren’t excessively heavy. I do appreciate that while each track has a different feeling, the overall production is consistent from track to track.
In spite of the sense of unreality that Mirage generates for me, the melodies that Baldocaster wrote are quite real and solid in their quality. They explore a wide range of emotions but each of them is well crafted and engaging. Some have a very warm and gentle quality, others brim over with energy and many are also tinged by an undercurrent of melancholy. Whatever the case, Baldocaster has a talent for melodic writing that he’s not shy in exploring on this album.
Now I want to talk about those tracks on Mirage which I felt were most compelling and discuss the elements in each of them that contributed to that feeling for me.
The main melody in “Curse This Castle” is resonant and slightly reverberant. The track is full of chiming synths, an active bassline and energetic percussion. It has warm synth chords and flowing pulsations that move over that variegated bassline and supporting rhythm. The high, bell-like synth tone that comes into the track contrasts nicely to all the washes of synth sound. It briefly drifts before the energetic main melody pushes through and propels the track forward. As the track ends, we get floating arps and the melody with deep wells of bass underneath it.
“Before Dawn” establishes a powerful rhythm along with its deep bass. The melody in this track sings out, full of life. It’s a track that compels the head to nod, but it is given a certain gentleness by sweeping synth sounds and the overall smoothness of the track. I also enjoy the rather transcendent feeling of the synths towards the close of the track before it returns to its established trajectory.
There’s a light sparkle of synths to start “Featherweight” before the solid bass and funky-feeling percussion come into the track. The engaging melody is played on a synth that has a choral quality which seems to emphasize the hopeful feeling that is created within that melody. This track has a groove to it that I could really appreciate and the whole track dances and whirls, feeling featherweight indeed.
The melody in “Traversal” does generate a sensation of crossing, of leaping foward and dancing through the track. I felt that Baldocaster’s melody had a victorious and inspirational quality about it which did indeed give off positive vibes. This is a track that interlocks all of its sonic elements as it resolves into an open and expansive sound. It is a song that makes me think of an adventure in some foreign land, crossing new vistas.
As a whole, Mirage is an album that transported me. Baldocaster’s melodic writing and the collective soundscape of all of the tracks painted strong images and kept my brain focused on those images throughout. I just shut my eyes and allowed myself to travel for a while, relaxing into the sonic world of the album.