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Synth Album Review: "PRPGND" by ZXSP

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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

ZXSP ’s PRPGND album uses a mixture of powerful bass, thundering drums and layers of synth and guitar that lacerate at times and shine with triumph at others to evoke a cyberpunk conflict between violent corporations, a dictatorial government and a group of freedom fighters seeking to break the cycle. She has created an album with a cinematic feeling to it that delivers the tale in sonic form, effectively creating an auditory world that absorbs the listener.

I’d like to address the cinematic nature of the album first. I find that the individual tracks are like scenes in the movie, each distinct but contributing to the whole storyline. Their various moods and imagery stand out but there’s a through line of shadow and tension that links them all together, even when there are triumphant moments.

The electric guitar is used to good effect on PRPGND as it adds both gruffness and energy. It can have quite a hard edge and it is certainly played with skill as it intricately shreds and leaps through the tracks. It isn’t overused by when it comes into the music, it adds a needed layer to the whole album.

I was also a fan of the variety and layering of synths on PRPGND. They have complex, intertwining relationships to each other that add depth to the music and again contribute to a feeling of cohesion as they interact and combine throughout the different tracks.

There’s good melodic writing on this album from all of the contributors. There are soaring moments, moments of tension and each of the melodies feels quite crafted and interesting. The melodies, as a whole, help to tell the tale of the battle for freedom that ties this album together.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“New World Overture” begins with deep pulses of heavy synth moving in the background while smooth swirls of sound drift over them. I’m drawn to the ways in which the sonic elements rise together on a current of air as shining, twisting arpeggios of high, thin synth wind in skeins over that pulse and the smooth, moving drum beat.

The pulse becomes a quick oscillation as the sounds above it all swirl and float together while the drums keep time and now that pulse is joined by warm-sounding synths that have a vocal quality playing delicate notes as the sound of marching feet can be heard over that steady dark synth pulse.

Rising, deep chords and a slightly rough edged synth sound are joined by the howl and energy of an electric guitar as it snarls into “Propaganda (feat. Dalton Ball).” The dynamic guitar sings into the track and is doubled by synth notes as it cries out and intertwines through the music.

The drums add more charging energy to the track as now the high synth shimmers and solos, dancing and rising over the propulsive drums and bass. There’s a real strength in the guitar solo as it shreds and intricately weaves through the other elements of the track.

“Conspiracy (feat. Corrupted Machines)” kicks into life with seriously hard-hitting drums and a deep bass oscillation moving outward in waves. The lead synth part is high and drifting, with a chiming quality. A minor key pattern of sharper synth layers into the music over the constant bass pulse and heavy drums.

The minor key and unsettled edge in this track effectively evokes a feeling of worry. The soaring lead climbs through the track with hints of shadow as the bass and drums thunder underneath.

It roams and wanders as now those minor notes twist together as the bass swells and contracts, moving in expanding circles along with that shifting, oscillating bass line and the tech-y sounding, chiming synth moves and drifts across the track’s surface.

Rapid bass flutter and dense clouds of rising synth open “Night Mission” as a thumping kick drum throbs underneath and drum fills bounce through before the beat charges forward and a triumphant, energetic melody is carried on a on a dense, slightly buzzing medium-high lead synth.

This track’s dynamism draws my ears in as quick flares of synth flutter over the melody as it climbs and sings. The feeling of charging forward imbues the whole track as the drums and bass accelerate. There’s a spinning glowing arpeggio that trails off before the track moves to a final energetic and driven synth melody.

“Prime Time” breathes into life with a circling, glowing arpeggio gliding out into open space. The smooth throb of the drums sweeps in along with an electric guitar snarling and a lead synth that somersaults downwards. I find the way in which the guitar sings out a layered melody and the synths surge up to be quite compelling.

There is both tension and hope in the notes of this track as the downward cascading synths are followed by the guitar as it cries out in passion. A smooth, trumpeting synth also adds energy as dense clouds of gruff guitar and a smooth beat throb through the music.

A driving beat and a technological sounding, chiming synth start “Superbis” off before a harder edged synth pulses out darkly into the music. A brightly dynamic melody, slightly shadow touched, moves through the track as oscillating, dense sounds shift underneath. The guitar is exciting for me as it lets loose a primal scream and the notes intricately fly through the music.

The chiming, minor key synth makes a return. It’s full of progressive energy and a sense of reaching out and pushing on as those synths spin and circle over the dense chords around them. The final guitar solo is powerful, bluesy and shredding.

“Production Line” opens with a rapid synth oscillation and the sound of a dial-up modem. Hard edged synths pulsate over the writhing darker layer under them. The dark, mechanical and inhuman sounds in this track emphasize the mechanistic nature of its title, along with the robotized voices.

A slower synth pulse is joined by expanding chords and the guitar adds more hard edged energy, as the thick notes stack one on top of the other. The track shifts and there’s more brightness to the guitar as it moves with an easier flow and the synths are lighter and more positive now, adding something hopeful to the music.

Conclusion

PRPGND is one of those albums that feels like a singular storyline encapsulated in musical form. There is a palpable atmosphere, strong imagery that bursts through and a feeling of the music taking one on a journey that is engaging and interesting.

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