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Synth Album Review: "Liquid" by The Less Dead

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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

The Less Dead’s Liquid album combines elements of New Wave synthpop, rock and synth wave in unique ways to produce music that has a distinct identity. The Less Dead mixes throbbing, driving beats with tapestries of synth sounds and some howling electric guitar that is only enhanced by his emotive singing and interesting song writing. There’s a great deal of richness and depth to this album.

I am so struck by The Less Dead’s voice. It can be caressing or powerful, aching or soaring as he delivers his thoughtful and interesting lyrics. Stevie Lee Price, his vocal and lyrical collaborator for “Every Day” also adds her own distinctive voice and songwriting skills to the album. The way the vocal melodies match the lyrical expressions only deepens the emotive qualities on Liquid.

There’s a great deal of delicate, shining and airy sound on Liquid with synths that have shimmer and sparkle to them as they move through the songs. The lambent nature of all of those elements contrasts with the strong throb of the drums and bass underneath. For me, it only serves to emphasize the lighter qualities of those synth sounds.

The Less Dead picks his moments to add electric guitar to the album and when he does, it adds a nice dimension to the tracks. The emotive, howling quality of the playing combines with the other parts of the music to deepen and strengthen the expression in those other elements. It’s an effective addition to the music.

One final comment that I want to make about Liquid is how well-produced it is. It has a sharp, clean sound and a good balance between all of the varied sonic elements. The quality of the production makes the music that much more impactful.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Burn It” starts with a wide open sonic space in the background into which drums throb with rising waves of glowing synth climbing through over the bass that underpins everything else. There’s an arpeggio slowly spins out above the floating airy bed of sound that fills the track.

Now a delicate synth touches the music as the fullness of a slightly distorted electric guitar calls out over that yearning, whirling arpeggio. The emotive nature of the guitar really compels me in this track. There’s dark, rough-edged synth notes that extend through the music while the drums hit hard. Another shimmering arpeggio whirls out under slower glowing notes that move over the top while the guitar distantly cries out.

Sparkling arpeggios, solid drum thunder and a driving bass beat flow under Stevie Lee Price’s ethereal, distorted vocals to kick off “Every Day.” There’s a powerful drive to the music that pushes it onwards as those arpeggios glow in crystalline brightness while the bass and drum throb contrasts with all the light over the top of it.

Stevie Lee Price’s lyrics yearn and dream in the song. There’s a moment of reminiscence in the lines, “lights in your eyes, a moment trapped in time” and an ache in the words, “Wanting to hear your voice, now you've made your choice.”

The feeling of losing a relationship echoes through in the lyric, “Every day we slip away, and every day is harder to stay” but there’s always the hope that, “maybe we could be, maybe we could see."

“Noose Knot” comes to life with high drifts of synth move into the openness of the track with a delicate, light suffused glow. The warmth of a chorus of female vocal sounds touches the music before The Less Dead’s fragile, delicate and caressing voice sings into the track with an expressiveness that I enjoy.

The steady drum and bass pulse is joined by flashes of brightness from the arpeggios that spin around underneath the vocals. The heavy drums and oscillating bass pulse keep shaping and strengthening the tune. There’s a funky synth breakdown before we move back to that smooth and flowing synth pulse.

There is a thread of something pained and hopeful that runs through this song’s lyrics. The hope finds expression in lines like, “Have you heard the song ‘bout the place where we can be together? It’s a secret place locked away where we’ll dance at night and drink all day.”

A note of uncertainty is struck in the words, “When we’re done, we’ll go back home better or worse we’ll see and you know that I’ll be there for you.” A note of confusion comes in the words, “I don’t comprehend just what’s happened here” before hope duels with a darker feeling in the lines, “It’s not the last time so don’t you despair, you know I’ll see you there. You’ve got your noose knot, rig it up.”

Pain comes rushing in as the lyrics say, “I can’t think no more, it’s an open door and when I look inside, I see your eyes and I’m blind and it’s news to me but you seem to want to be alone.”

A slowly whirling arpeggio swells into life as “Start Over” begins. It continues to grow in strength while an oscillating pulse of bass and the smooth heartbeat of drums drive under The Less Dead’s energetic vocals. The arpeggios circle and move, again and again to add more form under the strong vocal performance while another synth twinkles and dances behind them. The drums, bass and synths are interlock to imbue the music with a feeling of continued energy.

There’s a self-destructive, self-interested person at the heart of this song. The line, “So start over, no one gets in your way” makes that abundantly clear. The way in which they choose to destroy themselves is by “cutting yourself into little pieces” that are then very openly “strewn about the club like broken wishes.”

The song's subject shows a supreme lack of awareness of themselves. As the narrator says, “If you open your eyes for a sudden minute, look at yourself and you might regret it.” It seems, however, that this person doesn’t care and is “gonna make a mess” because once again after cutting themselves into pieces again is now “going about the club like little wishes.”

"Unsaid" starts with a steady dark pulse of oscillating, slightly uneven synth as higher, bouncing and uneven sounds move over top along with those distinctive drums that burst in. A computerized-sounding lead synth plays a cascading pattern that doubles with a chip sound.

The guitar calls out with light and energy over the moving, shifting landscape of shiny synth. A deeper flow of bass moves into the track, those flickering and shining notes bursting through as the guitar dances. I do enjoy the chiptune quality of the sounds along with the more metallic synth that moves in interlocking drifts along with those chip sounds.

“Fall Away” has its start with uneven, minor key drifts of synth moving in dense patterns. The Less Dead sings an aching vocal melody as a deep bass pulse and throbbing drumbeats add more motion to the song. The bass constantly oscillates as a high chime sparkles over the darker feelings that move through the song. the track. There’s a compelling feel of energy to this song that draws me in.

The theme of being an outsider runs through the song. It speaks for all those who are excluded or pushed aside. The song opens on the words, “We are the disaffected, the quiet ones.” These are those for whom “there’s not enough life to choose, not enough time to lose.”

As the song continues, it enumerates the disconnected, the silent, the reckless and unsteady. They are all in the same predicament as they are “standing on the backstreet, watching as you fall away.”

Warm, quickly revolving arpeggios dance into “You’re Weird” along with the solid drums and a slightly nasal and gently shining synth plays an uplifting melodic line. There’s a higher synth that comes in carrying a sunny feeling. There’s a unique chiming, metallic sound that moves over deep bass and a full drumbeat.

The high synth plays a pattern with a lambent brightness as that steady pulse underneath adds an easy glide to all of the elements of the track. I especially enjoy the segment with falling cascades of bright sounds that flash out over the depth underneath them.

Verdict

The Less Dead has created an album in Liquid that takes the most compelling parts of the stylistic influences it draws on and combines them with his distinctive lyrical style and vocal expression to produce music that is individual and that keeps the ear engaged.

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