Synth Album Review: Daniel Adam, "Where the Waves Meet"
Intensity runs like a steel cable through Daniel Adam’s album Where the Waves Meet. There’s also a spectral shadow that fills the background of the album, haunting all of the music. Even in the moments of beauty that exist when delicate piano carries the tracks, that persistent shadow spreads feelings of unease and tension through each track. When Adam sings, his voice whispers and that contrast only contributes to the sense of disequilibrium that permeates this album.
I quite enjoyed the mixture of string and choral sounds that Daniel Adam added to Where the Waves Meet. There’s an inherent grace and elegance to those sounds, even when the choral moments are deeply heavy and powerful. There’s an “organic” feeling to them that contrasts with the technological sound of the synths and lends warmth to what might otherwise be a too bleak aural landscape.
Dynamics are a crucial part of orchestral music, but are often neglected by music creators in other genres but that isn’t the case with this album. Adam uses dynamic contrasts to add more life to his music. The sense of growth and expansion as the music reaches a peak and then gradually slides down in volume gives life to the music. It adds to the power of the music when everything isn’t set at one constant volume and our ears (and brain) get to experience more sonic textures.
There is a cinematic feeling on tracks like “Are You There” and “Until The Sky Turns Blue.” The combination of strings, powerfully growing melodies and the use of snare drum and timpani sounds all contribute to a sense of flimic drama and conflict. The intensity and layering of sounds also adds to an impression of massive sound that enfolds the listener and carries them away.
There are two tracks on which Adam sings and his sibilant, nearly whispered delivery continues to increase the sense of something unsettling and dark permeating the various elements of Where the Waves Meet. Of course, the lyrical content itself has a disturbing undertone to it that can’t help but inform the sensation of discomfort that radiates from this album. There are many undertones to the music that I enjoyed experiencing.
I’ll take the opportunity to look at the tracks on this album that most intrigued me and talk a little bit about why I was so intrigued by them now.
A simple series of piano arpeggios starts spiraling through “Are You There” before moments of powerful drums and bass thump into the track. The combination of a male choral sound along with full strings sweeping into the track created an intensity in the track matched only by the triumphal synth melody that comes in. That melody, nonethless, is still tinged with melancholy. The soaring strings and relentless snare drumbeat builds the sheer drama of the track. It rises to a thunderous crescendo before slowly returning to the piano arpeggios and then fading out.
“Stay” is a track with a spacious, full sound and a repetitive beat that is mirrored by the synth sounds within the track. Daniel Adam’s voice whispers into the warm swells of sound, sibiliant and soft. There’s a yearning and aching in the lyrics, a sense of reaching. This is a track that uses layers of sound to create intertwining patterns. I enjoyed the way Adam created a “heartbeat” for the track around which the sounds all intermingle.
Delicate piano patterns stand alone as “Until the Sky Turns Blue” begins before they’re joined by long, single sustained string notes that give a sensation of elongation to the music and an female choir sings angelic notes that also sustain. A potent combination of insistent snare drums and electric guitar heighten the tension in this track. I enjoyed the uplifting melody carried by the electric guitar on this track.
The massive sound that Daniel Adam creates from the percussion, bass, guitar, string and choir grows to immense proportions before slowly returning to simple piano arpeggios and that delicate ethereal choir.
“Love Is Control” starts with solid hits of timpani and a repeating piano line. The dynamic beat and strings that again play sustained sweeps of sound add energy to this track. The male choir chant single notes before we fade to a single synth that skips and stutters over a void of droning bass. As the track progresses, the choir begins to take on a more exalted feeling and by the end of the track, there’s a more upbeat feeling being expressed. The contrasts within this track are the element that I enjoyed the most.
Where the Waves meet delivers an interesting variety of sounds and emotions. There’s complexity to the interplay of tension, release and emotional weight in all of the tracks and I particularly enjoyed the use of those string and choral sounds to add depth. I was still left with a profound sense of looming shadow and darkness underneath even the most triumphant parts of the album. Where the Waves Meet left me wanting to experience that darkness again after having heard it once.