Synth Album Review: "People's Album" by 7DD9
7DD9’s latest album entitled People’s Album is a study in contrasts that reflects the contrasting and challenging times through which we are now living. It expresses much of the current state of uncertainty and wildly fluctuating emotions that we are all experiencing. It’s also a musically interesting, well produced album that explores lots of sonic territory and definitely creates mood and atmosphere in the tracks.
The use of a wide palette of sounds helps to create those strongly delineated moods and atmospheres on People’s Album. When he goes for darkness or a more off-kilter feeling, he uses crunchy synths that give a feeling of slight disruption to the tracks. There’s also distortion and glitchy sounds along with bass that has grit and aggression to it. To evoke a warmer feeling, he goes to long sweeps of soft sound, synths that sing and dance and melodies that are gentle. It all works to really produce strong imagery.
People’s Album also showcases the effective use of repetition to reinforce a sense of pattern in some of the tracks. Many of the lead synth lines are repetitive affairs but it isn’t an annoying type of repetition. It is one that has a hypnotic quality to it and the fact that there’s quite a variety of different synth tones, beats and bass sounds means that it doesn’t ever get boring or irritating.
The repetition in many of the darker tracks is in contrast with the gentler, lighter tracks in which there are beautiful melodic elements that seem to be tinged with a slight wistfulness. I put this down to the fact that this is a world in which gentleness is often sad because sometimes it seems so very rare.
People’s Album has segments that would fall into the category of cyberpunk. There’s a technological, digital sound to it that makes it feel cold and robotic. There’s also a certain grit and grind to it that feels dark and dystopian. It has the sensation of dangerous forces moving in digital realms. Other segments, however, are full of much more light and air. Like all things, the world is a balance of positive and negative forces. I think 7DD9 has done a good job of balancing those elements in his music.
Now I am going to run down the tracks on People’s Album that I most enjoyed and talk about the reasons why I enjoyed those tracks as much as I did.
There is indeed something hard and aggressive about “Iron Limbs” in between the solidly pounding beat, chunky industrial synths and a overall sense of disruption and roughness. The track really does punch hard. Everything from the snatches of what sounds like growling electric guitar to computerized glitchy synths to aggressive percussion adds to the toughness of this track.
“Power Transmission” has an energetic dance-y bass that throbs through the track. It has a sense of crackling energy that propels it forward powerfully. The synths rise, high over it, calling out and singing. There are sweeps of synth that rattle through the track, a rather robotic sound in and a bass and drum line that begins to grow and build as the track pulses forward. The whole track is shaded by darkness despite all that thrumming energy.
The sense of rushing and speed is palpable on “Digital Runner.” It’s a track in which the synths interlock with interesting percussion sounds and a thudding bass beat. There are long sweeps of darker, more minor synth sound that oscillate as the track rushes forward. The lead synth melody does evoke the scenery rushing by and the whole track has a hectic, hurrying quality to it as drives along.
“Autopilot” has a smooth and easy groove with a string sample sailing along in the background, making everything flow. Now there’s a funky guitar line and a deep, rhythmic bass sound. We get percussion that also has funk elements in it. The synth here has a similarly funky sound to it. This is a good example of how 7DD9 has used repeating themes to reinforce a sound. I really liked the overall feeling of this track.
There’s a real dance feeling about “Crystal Bridges” with that thumping beat and slightly gritty, warm washes of synth. The lead synth line rides the beat easily and does have a crystalline quality to it. This is a track that has the sensation of diamonds shimmering in soft light to it, in contrast to the darker, grittier and more dystopic tracks on the album.
“Disco Madness” is a track that opens with smooth rising synth and then the steady groove and flowing drumbeat kick in. This a track that has a slightly wistful lead synth melody with singing qualities to it. The patterns of synth that move through it generate a more hopeful feeling than some of the darkness that pervades aspects of the album. I felt myself being carried upwards on those rising notes.
I found something deeply moving and touching in "Fade Out." The organ-like synth that opens the track is full of richness and beauty as a soothing flow of synth bass moves underneath it. The melody is gentle and tinged with melancholy. There’s something about this track that has a hearbreaking softness to it and I felt that heartbreak quite keenly through the musical expression of this track.
For me, People’s Album is a clear expression of the complexity and challenge of living in difficult times. There are forces that try to strip us of our humanity and at the same time countervailing forces exist that re-affirm those things that make us human. I feel like 7DD9 has captured something deep and interesting in this work and it makes me excited to hear what he’ll do next.