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Synth Album Review: "Forerunners" by SHIKIMO

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.


Initial Impressions

SHIKIMO’s Forerunners is an album full of rich, swirling soundscapes that enfold the listener and carry them on a journey across space and through deep waters. SHIKIMO combines a tapestry of varied synths with strong drums and lush bass underpinnings to paint sonic imagery. There are also delicate melodies and complex musical interactions to keep the listener engaged.

One aspect to Forerunners that works well for me is the atmosphere and soundscapes that SHIKIMO creates on the album. There’s a sense of flow and smoothness to the music along with moments of glimmering crystal synth. The album also explores contrasts with deep wells of bass and throbbing drums that add weight to the glow above them.

Another strong aspect to the album is SHIKIMO’s use of dynamics. There’s a criticism to be made of much modern music’s lack of dynamic range, but on Forerunners SHIKIMO avoids that mistake. There are distinct crescendos and diminuendos that help create sounds that engage the ear and keep the mind working. The varying volume also adds to the atmosphere on the album.

The melodies that SHIKIMO crafts on Forerunners are another aspect of the album that I enjoy. They run the gamut from more uplifting sounds to something touched by melancholy, but they often have these different feelings enmeshed. I especially enjoy the moments in which more positive melodies are touched by something more painful or yearning. It gives those moments more power in my view.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Galaxies” comes to life with cosmic drifts of delicate synth rippling out into open space. A slowly descending bass line adds weight and further depth to the music. Sparkling chimes revolve in slowly spinning arpeggios and airy synth sweeps through the track. A second synth with glowing, shimmering characteristics sparkles as the drums drive the music forward. I enjoy the sense of hope that imbues the melody carried on the shimmering lead synth.

The solid drumbeat now adds energy and drive to the track while the bass underpinning it pulses and the chimes glitter like crystal shards. Drifts of misty synth float in and sweep into descending bass and gentle, round, metallic sound flickers out. The melody has a sense of hope as it evolves before the music fades out on clouds of sound and elevated chimes.

A quickly whirling arpeggio carried on a medium-high, full synth grows in power as soft percussive sounds hiss to open “Light Wave.” The arpeggio gains energy as a percussive shiver of sound moves in the background. A bright synth carries a wandering melody over the steady throb of the beat.

Shining synth bounces and moves with the beat and I enjoy the uplifting, dancing melody above it. Arpeggios keep spinning as the melody drifts with a lambent glitter over the depths below it and the track fades slowly out into quiet.

“Forerunners” begins with a slow, oscillating bass pulse and a warm synth wash. A flashing, technological sounding synth carries a leaping pattern of notes that gains energy over the throb of the drums that shape the music. Glassy synth sparkles over the beat with a bursting, positive feeling to which I am drawn.

The pulses of synth now fade down and the drum heartbeat begins again with soft wisps of synth swirling around it. A crescendo of coruscating notes returns the music to the “A” section with the melody forming rising stairways of overwhelmingly uplifting notes before the track floats into silence.

There’s a deep descent into bass like dark blue water and hollow, open synth notes that follow the bass into gliding depths to bring “Dive” into being. Rich serenity fills the music as the flow of bass radiates outwards and a slightly distorted, medium-high synth carries a drifting melodic pattern. I am drawn to the way that melodic line feels like a streamlined, gliding creature in clear water.

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The bass flow is like a smooth current and a round synth plays a slightly mournful melody that extends out like shafts of sunlight through the greenish-blue water above the depths. The beat’s throb adds form to the music and a raised synth twinkles and shimmers as the drums move. This is a track full of contemplative floating.

“Tides of Time” starts with circling arpeggios that have a hint of minor key shadow to them. They rise in energy to create a throbbing pattern that shifts behind them. A sharper edge of synth cuts in over smoother, warmer synth chords growing below it. A deep, throbbing kick drum sound is joined by shining chimes playing an easy pattern of notes.

The beat has a unique feel to it and intertwining, glowing synth carries a dynamic melody with a pleasing melancholy tinge to it. The music sweeps into a floating segment in which a bass pulse repeats underneath gently swirling notes that twist through the glide of sound around them. I can sense Starfarer's contribution to this track. A crescendo occurs as medium-high synth forms a shining melody that flows with real ease and light into the track.

Lush, caressing piano notes play an evolving pattern of arpeggios that rises and falls in smooth waves to kick off “Triquatic.” A trembling, gentle synth carries a feather-light melodic pattern over the easy going drumbeat. Flickers of higher synth form a delicate, interwoven filigree of bright notes. A metallic synth sound drifts over all encompassing chords and the blue feeling of water. I am enamoured of the soothing breath of the main melodic line in this track.

Softly brushing, metallic waves of sound move with a heart touching melody before the music moves into soothing notes that create a feeling of warm water flowing. Cut glass chimes sing out and reverberate through the openness around them and the beat adds motion to the glide of the track. The chimes keep flickering and glittering and the music slowly ebbs away.

“Arid Lands” starts with a rapid pattern of medium low synth with a slightly uneven feeling is joined by a slow pulse of drums and a rougher-edged layer of sound. Metallic chimes play glistening arpeggios and an airy sounding synth carries a slightly pained and wandering melody.

I enjoy the mixture of emotions that SHIKIMO creates in his music here. There’s a sweeping rush of air as synths intertwine to carry the melody, touched by a sense of loss. The tinkling synth arpeggios keep turning over the waves of medium-low synth and an open space full of drifting sound

A shivering organ-like synth trembles into the track with and evolves into quick arpeggios that rise and fall, growing in power, to open “Iridescent.” Dense bass and a throbbing beat underpin bell-like synth that drifts in diamantine lines carrying a sparkling melody. I am drawn to the sheen and shimmer of the music on this track.

A secondary, lower line of edgier synth supports the elevated shimmer of the lead synth. Wind blows into the track before the glittering, elevated synth slowly fades before a kick drum joins with the surging energy of oscillating synths. Iridescent sound flickers into the track and the drums pulse and shape the music while a bright arpeggio circles and the yearning synth melody fills and then fades.

“Transient Moments” breathes into life with rising, misty clouds of synth gliding through the track as a deeper weight of bass also grows and there’s a crescendo. Slightly sharp-edged synth plays a shifting pattern while chiming light flows from the music. The melody sings sweetly while the drums pulsate and drive the track on. Air blows and the track falls into sliding ease as the bass flows.

Glockenspiel flutters and the drumbeat pushes on again while a lower synth adds an almost creaky voice below it all. The raised chimes carry that melody that shivers and glistens over the never ending drums.


"Forerunners" is a galactic journey across vast starfields that SHIKIMO paints with rich synth tones and timbres, moments of melodic beauty and a deep sense of atmosphere that permeates each element of the music on the album.

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