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Synth Album Review: "Ghost On Stereo" by Severum

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

Severum’s Ghost On Stereo album is full of complex, layered washes of sound that all interact and move together in unique, sometimes experimental ways to create a nuanced sonic exploration that ventures across a wide territory of emotions and sensations.

Part of Ghost On Stereo’s complexity comes from the wide variety of different synthesized sounds of which Severum takes advantage on the album. They can glow or growl, sometimes the synth sounds are smooth and at others much rougher. All of these shifting combinations of sound contribute to the overall tapestry woven on this album.

Another factor that goes into making Ghost On Stereo such a rich auditory experience is the dynamism of the tracks as they move through variations in volume, tempo and sonic timbre. Severum manages to move across this broad sonic territory without the music becoming too disorganized by establishing a coherent character across all of the tracks. One recognizes a feeling that straddles the album, but it still allows for ear-catching variety in the music.

The one track on this album that truly demonstrates Ghost On Stereo's approach to music making is “Cosmic III (Cosmic Forever)” that is almost like a standalone work. It ranges through many moods and sonic textures, in an almost symphonic fashion with distinct “movements” and motives. Despite this wide-ranging character, there’s a coherence to it that ties it in with the album’s overall sound.

My Favorite Tracks Analyzed

“Walking Sunrise” glows into life with an upwelling of expanding synth moving through the airy openness of the music. More synth sounds spread out like ripples through the breathing, open space surrounds every part of the music. The wandering, slightly minor key melody adds a likeable feeling of meandering to the music while a thick-sounding synth moves into the track.

There’s also a smooth. even drum beat and bass that grows under it to add more substance to the music. The wandering melody returns, now moving with more cohesion and energy as the pattern repeats itself, while the beat adds useful shape to the track while the interlocking layers of synth all swell together. This is a track that I enjoy for its depth and texture.

Moving waves of thick bass slip under a higher synth that plays extending, rounded chords to begin “Night Time Bike Fly.” Now there’s a slowly spinning arpeggio that oscillates and sparkles over the beat’s throb while a leaping minor key melody flows into the track.

I find myself engaging with the warm upwelling of sound that flows in, feeling melancholy while the arpeggios that come in have a circular quality to them. There’s a flowing segment with long drifts of synth that touch the music with a momentary ease before the energy rises again.

“Time Travel” comes to life with a series of lambent synth notes that grow together as a slow drumbeat adds a pulse to the music. Airy synth sounds rise over the beat as it becomes stronger before a cascading, interleaved melody dances into the music. There’s a compelling richness to the way that the bass throbs in under a pattern of shiny synth notes that rise upwards and build sonic layers in the music. I find the shimmering and interlocking feeling that this track produces to be ear-grabbing.

Dense flows of slightly rough edged rising synth with a lot of air around them open “Retro City” while the beat’s smooth flow kicks under those thick synths. The beat begins to pulsate unevenly while a waterfall of edgy, very bright synth spills into the track. The waterfall of sound establishes a pattern that nicely delineates the track. There's a break into deep oscillations of bass under the beat before intensely shining synths climb up through the music, giving it a sense of rising energy.

“Exothermic” has solid bass and a thudding kick drum to begin with as a reverberating minor key synth plays a descending pattern of notes. There’s a driving, oscillating pulse in this track that makes a good contrast with the slowly moving arpeggios and the main melody has a minor quality to it that I enjoyed.

There’s a nervous tension and energy to this piece as it moves through the various linked patterns that create one cohesive musical unit in this track.

Brightly bursting synths play into the open space that kicks off “Destiny Point.” A melody that has a certain majestic feeling and a chip tune sound rises up and deep synth bass with an edge moves under that melody as a rapidly pulsing beat bursts in. There’s a trance-like quality to the beat as well as a dark driving quality. There's a moment where the beat moves alone, unadorned before a slowed down, slightly distorted version of the main melody is joined by a keyboard, adding more strength and depth to everything.

“Cosmic III (Cosmic Forever)” starts off with heavy, deep and bleak sounds along with a faint pulse in the background. That pulse grows in weight and volume as a string section sound slides into the music, playing resonant and shadowed chords. There’s a pleasing quality to the warmth and fullness of the strings as they add round tones to the music. A new segment of the piece begins as we break to droning sounds and a high, distant chiming before a solo piano plays a mournful melody into the openness of the track.

The piano melody becomes more complex and abstract in nature, still totally spare and without accompaniment before the piece breaks into stuttering, dense and wandering synth pulses. Again a new part is introduce with shining, bright synth and a steady drumbeat before arpeggiating, sliding patterns move into the music.

The track now moves into the rich, shaded strings again while the drums pulse and moving arpeggios are also added underneath the orchestral strings. There’s a brief break into open space and the unadorned piano melody returns before reverberating synth notes echo out into a flowing warming background. The complexity and variety of this piece is quite compelling for me.

As the track continues we get a mixture of a roving piano segment and the strings playing a melancholy, minor key melody before full flows of synth, all airy and moving, blow through the track. Full notes rise from it to add another level of richness and depth before we eventually return to solo piano and then wandering arpeggios over string sounds, drums and bass.

Verdict

Ghost On Stereo is one of the more complex and adventurous albums that I’ve reviewed. It has a distinctive character and energy that makes it stand out. Severum has caught my attention and I’ll listen out for more of his work in the future.

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