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Synth Album Review: "Ocean Radio" by Karl Vincent

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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

Karl Vincent’s Ocean Radio album combines a wide variety of different moods and feelings with a synth-driven sensibility that is rooted in the sounds of the 1980’s but expands on them and uses the sonic canvas to paint rich imagery and draw the listener into the world it creates.

One of the outstanding features of Ocean Radio is Karl Vincent’s guitar work. His electric guitar skills allow him to shred and dance intricately on the strings and add a charging, leaping energy to the music. I also was impressed by his use of slap bass to add a funky flow to the tracks on which he uses it.

The ways in which synths intertwine and combine on Ocean Radio is another one of its strengths. The palette of synthesized sounds run the gamut from brightly shining chimes to airy panpipes. Each of these different sounds flows together or breaks apart as the songs evolve to produce a shifting sonic landscape that catches the ear.

Another important element that adds to the whole effect on this album is the percussion. The drums have a full, deep sound and add strong underpinning to the other musical elements of the tracks. I especially liked the variety of drum and percussion sounds that Karl Vincent used on “Slick Criminal.”

Ocean Radio has a intense sense of atmosphere that is consistent across the tracks. Each one is imbued with different feelings and vibes. For instance, “Funky Bar” nails the sense of a happening nightspot and “Deep Sea” is a strong evocation of floating in infinite blue. I enjoy how Karl Vincent has worked to create these different sonic sensations on the album.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“San Mauricio” kicks off with chimes that glow into open space as deep bass pulses while an easy, steady and gliding beat moves under the interlocking synths that wind out a delicate, light tune which skips easily through the music. The brightly glowing and gentle melody winds through the track while a sax calls out distantly behind it.

My favourite part of the track is the impassioned guitar that howls out in an intricate rich and winding solo. That guitar is full of strength and energy in contrast to the delicate, smooth glide around it and again we fade to breathy air and that wandering, easy melody.

Spinning arpeggios that climb with a metallic brightness over rising waves of sound, heavy drums and a growing bass pulse open “Voices.” There are excellent pan pipe synths that sing into the music and the beat drives onward while they add their breathy sound.

A medium high synth plays a waving pattern of sound as the chimes shine and the beat throbs. The lead synth melody returns as the pan pipe sound with another synth crying distantly out over it and the beat adds more shape to the track. Now the drums have a more dynamic feeling with the rising layers of sound that climb over them. I enjoy the vibe and energy of this track.

“Shodown in Chinatown” comes to life with a steadily pulsing beat, the sound of sweeping wind and glowing synth sounds. Drums with a hollow weight to them are joined by the lead guitar that shreds and cries out over the drums bouncing underneath of it. I am drawn to the way this track drives forward with a cool ‘80s action movie vibe. Another superb guitar solo leaps intricately through the music. The main synth melody is ghostly in contrast the solid, aggressive guitar work on the track.

There’s a steady beat and bass that pulse smoothly together as chimes with a technological feeling float over vast airy space and the synths all shimmer and glide together to start “Infiltrator” off. Now a snaky and slinky melody that screams “spy theme” to me comes into the track.

I find the way the brightly shining synth moves over funky slap bass quite engaging. The guitar vaults through the music once more, adding energy to everything before returning to pulsing waves of synth and roving, warm pan pipes dance lightly over the bass pulse under them. The atmospherics of this track generate a nice sense of drama and storytelling in the music.

“Slick Criminal” begins with seriously funky slap bass and a bouncing energetic synth line along with classic ‘80s percussion sounds. These sonic elements are accompanied by a dynamic, oscillating synth pulse that dances out over the percussion sounds. The fullness and depth of the drums are an element I like about this track.

The synth pattern grows in strength and energy as it moves through the music along with the ear-grabbing percussion. There’s a super funky bass solo that adds another tasty flavour to the proceedings. We get back to that leaping, jumping lead synth that has so much dynamism over the super cool drums.

There’s a whole lot of synth shimmer and shine as “Summer Vice” glows into life through an open sonic space and over a steady pulse of bass. The lead synth is bright but easy as it wriggles over the beat’s pulse. Everything about this track has a pleasing airy, breathing feeling to it. The lead synth melody is quite uplifting and the beat adds drive to the music but all of the elements glide and slide through the music. There’s an addictively smooth flow to this track that keeps me listening.

“Funky Bar” has a sound that’s as advertised. As the track comes alive, there’s a slick and funky bass part that bounces under the interesting nasally synth that bursts into the music. The dominant factor is the bass and drum groove that relentlessly stays in the pocket, but I do like the pan-pipe sounds that sail into the music. The groovy vibe of this track suits the notion of a cool, neon-drenched hangout spot that it wants to convey.

There is more chiming shimmer and deep, rich bass to kick off “Summers in Miami” as a sax howls with warm, caressing passion into the track over the flowing sounds underneath it. The chimes contribute a glowing feel to everything.

This track has a warm atmosphere and the lead pan pipe synth has a wandering, gentle quality that is quite lovely. Throbbing drums join in as the lead synth slips delicately through the music. There’s a deeply expressive sax solo that is only enhanced by the sparkle and shine of the chiming elements in the track.

“Deep Sea” is full of the wash of waves and a sense of complete calm and rest. I feel myself surrounded by the cool waters, a long oscillating pulse of bass moving under like gentle currents as higher, delicate synths flutter and shine like sun on blue water. The drums that come in have the soothing pulse of gentle waves.

Everything is so serene and settled, feeling like a diver hanging in the midst of deep water. Gentle, caressing synths flicker and slide with total calm through the music, so enfolding and soothing. This is a track that expresses the nurturing, supporting side of the world’s oceans from where all life sprang.

Verdict

Karl Vincent’s Ocean Radio does a musical sleight of hand by working from a retro sound basis without becoming stuck in trying to mimic the time period from which those sounds come. Of course, there are echoes of the ‘80s in the music but it goes much further and ranges over a broad sonic territory that is full of expression and character.

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