Synth Album Review: "Percipience" by The Institute 91'
The Institute 91’s album Percipience is full of the contrasts of light and shadow. There are tracks that fully plumb the depths and others through which the sensual, emotive strains of sax move. There are moments of sparkling synth as well as heavy bass that seems to rise from an abyss. Sometimes the feelings evoked are full of nervous tension and at other times there are melodic moments that feel uplifting. As a whole, the album unfolds and takes listeners on a journey through many unique musical landscapes.
One of the through lines on Percipience is the use of a full sax sound that moves into the music. The sax has such a heartfelt, emotional and expressive feeling and it helps add more character to the tracks in which it is used. It flows through the music and deepens it while also adding that retro flare that fits right into the sounds of this album.
On the tracks that have a darker feeling to them, there are two elements that stand out for me on the album. The first is the absolute weight and depth of the bass. It rumbles and growls down low, feeling menacing and shadowy. The second is the use of high, minor key synth lines and arpeggios that add a tense and nervous feeling to the music. In tandem, these sounds create the sensation that something dangerous is lurking around every corner.
All of the melodies that The Institute 91’ has crafted for Percipience are interesting and fulfill their roles in the tracks. Some of them are more positive and energetic while others add to the feeling of darkness and danger as they wind in a minor key way through the music. All in all, they add balance to the album as well as expression.
There’s an overall feeling about the album in which sounds are used to create strongly atmospheric music. I felt like images were being unfolded in my mind on Percipience. Each track was like a vignette that together created a cohesive end result, despite the variance in tone and emotion from track to track.
My Favourite Tracks Analyzed
“Tombstone’s” dense minor key melody is what held my attention on the track. It has a shadowed feeling of sadness to it as it is swept along with the sound of wind blowing behind it. The heavy heartbeat of the drums and the worried-sounding arpeggios contrast with long flows of gentler synth sound in the background. This is one of those tracks that encompasses a wide variety of different emotions and sensations within it.
The sax on “Go For Broke” is a defining element to the track. It’s so full of bright energy as it sings out through the track. It’s so impassioned and along with a fluttering, jumping lead synth solo, it lifts the track up. I also enjoyed the drive and bounce of the beat on the track. As a whole, this music has a great retro sound to it. It did indeed give the feeling of going for broke to the track.
“Sever” has a ghostly feeling to it that comes from the phantom-like synths that float out over the music. There’s a darkly ethereal element to the track along with the hard, steady drums and growling bass which lend it a sense of menace. This is added to by the nervous-sounding arps that move restlessly under the rising swells of synth. I also liked the darkly triumphant melody that eventually burst into the track as well as that emotive sax again.
I think that the booty shaking groove at the beginning of “High Steppin’” is quite fun as is the lead synth that plays a tune which is catchy, funky and fun. I also enjoyed that, as the track evolved, it became darker and more brooding. Again the music moved through a widely varied series of moods as the track progressed. The sax had an intensity of feeling that permeated everything on this track.
“Revenant” is one of the darkest tracks on the album. It has a tense, winding melody that is full of shadows and a menacing feeling. The vocal sample on the track adds even more darkness. The man’s voice is full of desperation and terror. The heavy weight of the bass in the track adds to the sense of danger. All of the musical elements add to the feeling of dread as high waves of synth drift over the heavy, dark background and rise through it slowly.
There’s such an organic warmth about the sax in “Nepja” All of the sounds in this track are warm and hopeful. There are gentle synth sounds that float up and the beat pulses and adds energy to the music. I enjoy the smooth flow that contrasts with the darker, heavier music that came earlier in the album. There was also a synth solo that felt soaring and I liked how the beat burst into a higher energy level as the track moved toward a conclusion.
“Mercy” opens with a singing sax that has a hopeful feeling to it. The lead synth has a free, uplifting sensation about it. All of the elements of this track create a feeling that the darkness has ended and that perhaps some hope can be found after all. I was into the way the lead synth soared and climbed, feeling a bit like a fanfare to me. I also liked the slight bend to some of the notes in the track as bright arps keep spinning and whirling through the music.
The Institute 91’ has created an album full of light and shadow with Percipience. It explores the contrasts between the darkness and the light. It also adds interesting musical textures, enjoyable melodic writing and that impassioned sax to the mix. As I said earlier, I felt that a story was being unfolded in my head while I listened to the album and that’s something which I always enjoy.