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Synth Album Review: "Neon Noir" by Hipster Pug

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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

Hipster Pug’s Neon Noir album is a pleasant surprise. The title lead me to expect a certain kind of sound and instead I got a rich, layered and intriguing album that explores full soundscapes with an almost classical sensibility at times. Hipster Pug has taken modern synth music in a beautiful and immersive direction with Neon Noir.

The first element that draws me so strongly to Neon Noir is the tremulous, delicate nature of so much of the music. There’s an ethereal float to the album, sometimes tinged with shadows, but always flowing and lightly touching the ears. At times there’s a deeply mournful feeling and at others, a softness that is nearly heartbreaking.

I enjoy the way these sounds are carried through a space that feels open and vast which only emphasizes their fragility. When darker elements do touch the music, that tremulous quality that makes it so ethereal only points up the intensity of that darkness. It is constantly intriguing to my ear.

Hipster Pug has great facility with the production of a intricate, rich sonic tapestry. He skillfully uses a wide range of different sounds that evoke strings and voices to shape and define the music. The more explicitly synth-y segments also add more layers to the album’s overall sound. In total, every element is carefully chosen to create specific auditory impressions in the listener.

Neon Noir has the kind of ambient sensibility that most jibes with my listening tastes. It isn’t so ambient that it becomes dull or monotonous because of the way each sound interacts with the others. There is shape and motion in the music, it doesn’t remain static and it isn’t insistently repetitive. I felt myself drifting along as the current of the sounds carried me through these ethereal soundscapes.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Shadows” opens as Bill Gelwick’s guitar slices into the open space of the track along with a pulsing, uneven synth that twists with a minor quality. As the guitar cries out over the static it has a powerful emotive intensity. The guitar rises intricately above the pulsing uneven synth, rising and falling in waves before we fade into crackling static.

Ghostly piano notes and a sax’s reedy breath bring “Lost” to life. The piano notes are joined by a shadowy wash of sound. The minor key notes begin to spin together faster and faster over the sax as high, tight synth also moves through and deep bass flows shift under it all. The sax calls out, high and nervous, over the depths under it.

Now choral voices that feel like lost spirits add to the ethereal and wandering feeling of the track, shaded by something foreboding. The sax and the voices mingle and now we also have all the tones joining together, trembling through the music. I am drawn to the sonic sensibilities of this piece.

“Burn Out” begins with a deep flow of quickly moving bass that pulses out into the music with brighter glowing synth moving over the top in flashing notes. The intensity of that pulse grows and spreads through the open air of the track, varying in volume as it moves. There’s a subtle but effective ambient power to this piece of music. The way the synth pulses modulate and move add texture and shape to the track.

High pipe-like synths that are full of warmth bring “Sleeping Souls” into being with lower synths of the same type moving under them. This is a gentle chorus of full sounds, moving in interlocking waves, that wash out into the open spaces of the track. I find the sense of open space compelling in this piece, especially when it accentuates the swirling, flowing notes that all blend together into one harmonious whole. Without a formal melody, there is still something satisfying about this track.

“Path of Memories” comes gently breathing into life with piano and string-like sounds that float out in clusters through the airy light around everything. The track glides along delicately, stroking over the ears in smooth waves. The piano dreams along with the drifting strings and each element twines around the next. There’s something trembling at the heart of the music that I find touching.

A whisper of string like sounds along with male choral voices and deep bass start off “The Journey of Finding Yourself.” The low notes throb underneath the male vocal sounds are joined by female choral sounds to produce a reverent effect that permeates the track. The strings begin to gain strength as those sacred voices chant.

Higher, more glowing string sounds slide in and add extra luminosity to the music. As the deep, full bass sounds rumble and grow they lift the whole track up, adding a feeling of the sublime to the music.

“Lights” has dark drones and trembling strings that flicker through the music as it starts. All of the musical elements move through cavernous spaces as those strings shimmer and judder while the depths of bass roil under them, feeling full of uncertainty. I enjoy the high washes of softly touching piano and gossamer clouds of sound that move in, adding a softness to the track, ever so tenuous and ephemeral.

Verdict

Neon Noir is a full, beautifully integrated tapestry of musical elements that all intertwine and mingle to produce a cohesive whole that is full of expression and auditory interest. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what else Hipster Pug comes up with in the future.

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