Synth Album Review: Damokles, "Tales From a Future Past"
Tales from a Future Past is a great slice of ‘80s retro synth music that’s a lot of fun to listen to. It’s always interesting to hear interpretations of music from a certain era made by people who were actually there and involved in the music industry at the time. Damokles was a DJ from 1979-87 as well as a touring musician. He’s currently producing retro synth music from his studio. As a result, this album really is more like music made in the ‘80s than music made to sound like it was made in the ‘80s. It’s an important distinction to make because it’s a strong part of the sound of this album.
Those 1980s analog synths that the artist uses to create his music are the beating heart of this album. They set the stage for all of his musical explorations and define his sound. I was especially impressed by the way his production was consistent with the era in which the music has its origins, but sounded fresh and refreshing nonetheless.
Another aspect of Tales from a Future Past is the fact that the tracks are not three minute bursts of music that have to have a hook in the first fifteen seconds. They take their time to develop and move through their various sections, rather than being rushed which rewards the patient listener. Sometimes I like short, sweet pop tunes but it’s also nice to get a little more development.
I am a sucker for people who write great melodies and I have to say that Damokles has created some excellent ones for this album. They’re catchy, interesting and can be downright beautiful in some moments. The melodic isn’t necessarily fashionable in electronic music but I think that it adds quite a lot to the integrity of the album and makes it more enjoyable to listen to.
Music is a direct conduit to the emotions when it works well. I found that Tales from a Future Past was able to convey the emotional content of this album quite effectively through the music. Each track clearly delineated and expressed the emotion it was attempting to create in the listener, in my view.
Unique singing voices aren’t encouraged by the mainstream music industry, but I really appreciate the way Damokles’ voice sounded. It’s deep and has clarity, but his delivery is distinctive. I like the way he’s not trying to be anyone but himself. The same goes for his lyrical approach which I wouldn’t mistake for anyone else’s.
Now comes the time for me to showcase the tracks which made the strongest impression on me from Tales from a Future Past.
I’ll start with the track with which I had the most fun on the album and without a doubt that has to be “It Came From Outer Space.” This is a hell of a fun song about an alien invasion with entertaining lyrics and great tongue in cheek delivery. There’s something cheesy in the best possible way about this track and I love it. On top of it all, there’s a really jazzy sounding soloistic synth part that comes in towards the end of the track, just to send things over the top.
The uptempo ‘80s beat and throbbing repetitive synth lines that open “You Will Never Catch Me” send the track charging forwards into an upbeat, dynamic synth melody that’s full of life and extremely catchy. The whole track does have a propulsive “chase scene” quality about it and Damokles sure does know how to write melodies that are fun to listen to. The synth solo in this track has a guitar solo like quality about it that I dug.
Any time a track can bring a little funk to things, I’m happy and “Electrofunkadelic” definitely brought it for me. From the solid groove and interesting percussion sound choices to the super funky, tasty melody, I was hooked. I like how jazzy the melodies are and the fact that there are soloistic segments that give some real character to the music.
“Grab a Hold of Yourself” is a track that makes me want to move, to leap forward and transcend the usual drudgery of life! I am a fan of the interaction between the beat of this song and the synth sounds that Damokles uses here. Like all of the tracks on the album, this one was infused with an energy that can’t be ignored. Once again, it also has a finely crafted melody running through it.
The final track of the album “Leaving You This Way” is one of the most unique love ballads I’ve heard in a while. It’s the story of a space traveler who is saying goodbye and leaving on a voyage that seems quite uncertain. The track has a yearning, emotional quality that grabbed me. The song is melancholy, a little dark but still melodic. I think the line, “The stars are indifferent to what will happen to us when we get there/And somehow that is comforting as we go to sleep” captured the way this track made me feel.
Tales from a Future Past is an album that mixes melody with driving energy, fun with emotion and all of the things that made music in the ‘80s so appealing, interesting and enjoyable with all of the production quality now available with the latest technology. Damokles may have been around since the ‘80s but the music is as fresh, energetic and melodic as anything that anyone is making out there right now.
© 2019 Karl Magi