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Synth Album Review: "Project Echo" by Myths and Monsters

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

Artwork by Pia Wennell

Artwork by Pia Wennell

Initial Impressions

Myths and Monsters (Ste Whiley) Project Echo is an album telling a sonic tale and taking listeners on a journey through melodic soundscapes shot through with hope and triumph that is tempered by darker, more shadowed elements as well. This is an album that is full of rich synth sounds and chip tune elements that form detailed layers to paint a picture in sound for the listener, expressing emotion as each different element interacts with the others.

My first comment on this album is that Ste Whiley possess strong chops when it comes to melodic writing. Whiley weaves melodies that are sometimes triumphant, sometimes delicate but always clear and clean. I especially enjoy the tinges of melancholy that touch even the most uplifting melodies have on this album. There’s always a reminder that the triumphs can’t last forever implicit in those moments.

The second observation that I want to make about Project Echo is that it has a feeling of layered richness to it as all of the synth and chip elements interact and move together. It produces a sense of a whole cloth that has been carefully stitched together out of shimmering threads. There’s a cohesiveness to the music, but one that still allows listeners to experience the details. This is particularly interesting given how Whiley used a Nintendo Game Boy Advance to control all of the synths on the album.

I also enjoy the journey on which Project Echo takes listeners. There are many moods and feelings that fill the music. We move from light to darkness, through hope and darker feelings of danger and each different track has a shading and nuance to it that strongly delineates those emotions and sensations. As a whole, the album tells a story effectively and in an engaging way.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Project Echo” comes into being with gentle, slowly shifting synth chords that rise and flow through open space as a steady bass pulse comes into the music. A very 1950’s sounding vocal sample introduces the mysterious Project Echo. The throbbing bass is joined by drums that move around it and warm, rising synth chords above it. I enjoy the triumphant melody, played on a crisp chip sound, that is joined by an oscillating arpeggio.

The oscillating arpeggio moves higher over the richer, fuller sounds under it that carry the melody, full of a sense of rising power leavened by a little sadness. The melody breaks into a choppier segment and rises over the pulsing bass and drums as cascading arpeggios move over the uplifting and slightly shadowed sounds underneath them. A high, howling solo cries out and the beat drives with more conviction and that semi-triumphant melody sings out.

A solidly throbbing techno beat is pierced by higher sparkles of synth in a repeating pattern, 8-bit chip sounds adding a sharp edge to kick off “GMSL.” The high chip pulse climbs up high and then swoops low over deep bass. A snaky minor key melodic line moves over bursting, choppy sounds before the appealing lead melody cries out, carried on a full-sounding synth, as it whirls and dances.

There’s a segment with rising chip sounds that use a Middle Eastern sounding scale cutting over that insistent beat, everything moving in one tense line, the pressure building and the sounds climbing up over the steady beat and bass. This is a evolving track with a sense of drama and building threat to it.

“Thalassogen” opens with bursts of notes that move and rise together. There’s a coherence as even beat pulses and a melody tinged with gentleness and flow moves into the track. There’s a pleasing glowing feeling about the melody as it sings with positive energy. I also like how the bite of the chip sounds is tempered by the light of the melody.

The track breaks into bursts of slightly stuttering, intertwined synth over the steadier beat. This melodic segment Is a little shadowed, contrasting with the warmer feeling of the earlier melody. There’s a return to the main melody, crying out with a feeling of hope and yearning over the slightly breaking beat.

Interlaced, moving synth chords create a descending pattern with a dark tinge as “Regenerator” begins. I am enamoured of the ancient sounding and magisterial melody with a shadowy twist that moves along with a heartbeat pulse of bass. Flickers of brighter sound move over the descending pattern of notes.

The pulsing bass is joined by a wave of higher sounds that flash out over the darkness. There’s a sense of something ominous lurking as the heartbeat of drum and bass is joined by chip sounds that remind me of a pipe organ. The beat and a whispering pattern of sound adds form before the track returns to the darkly rising melody

“Policed Division” stars with the sound of sirens and smooth flow of darker bass pulses. An ear-grabbing chip lead wheels, bends and leaps in a a shifting line of brightness over a slightly shuffling beat. I enjoy the sliding and wavering of that chip lead. Another melodic pattern comes in, climbing and glowing, as the drums drive the track on. The melody is hopeful and more flowing as long passages of notes slide over rapid metallic feeling arpeggios.

A chip lead rises delicately and brightly over an easily pulsing beat as “Swarve” launches. It sings a caressing melody that is full of a kind of dreamy hope and a touch of wistfulness that I was drawn toward. The beat moves with ease as full synths rise to support a bouncing higher chip sound.

The gentle and dreaming notes of the melody are underpinned by a steady, oscillating bass pulse as a panpipe sound plays a pattern that moves in waves through the music. The lead melody cries out again with a feeling of rising hope before metallic sounds and an even pulse move in and through the music as it ends.

There’s a steady throb of bass and a dark, martial sounding note pattern as “Space Balloon” begins along with higher oscillating pulse of synth. A series of rising, vibrant chip sounds and a growling mid-level synth joined by a pitch bending and twisting melody that has a likeable devious quality to it. A ripple of arpeggiating, drifting chip sound moves through as a guitar-like synth plays a shifting melody with a darker quality to it.

Gentler arpeggios rise and fall with a round sound and notes in the background that climb ever higher as that sliding, shifting melody plays. The beat bursts and drives into a quicker pattern, everything accelerating as the drum throb pushes on and the track continues to move more rapidly. It ends on a that sound I can only characterize as a stereotypical UFO takeoff.

Conclusion

Project Echo is the type of synth-based music that I personally enjoy. It has a unique way of using synth elements, it has sonic detail and richness and it tells a story that is melodically and emotionally strong. On top of all of this, it was created in an interesting way which also appeals to me.

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