Synth Album Review: "Retrodise" by Kushna
Retrodise by Kushna is one of the more nuanced, complex and interesting instrumental synth albums I’ve been able to review. It is rich with well-constructed melodies, unique musical instrument sound choices and interlinked bass and drum sounds that produce quite an original vision of where synth-based music can go these days.
One distinctive element of Retrodise are the instrumental synth sounds that Kushna uses. There is, especially, an ancient flute-like sound that moves into the music. It imbues the tracks where it’s used with a feeling of something rooted and belonging to a timeless tradition that transcends cultural and musical boundaries. At times, the synths have a trumpeting quality and at others they remind me of a string section. As a whole, they add a textured feeling to the album.
Melodic writing is something that Kushna does well on this album. There are melodies that yearn and ache as well as some that have a slinky, mysterious quality to them. My favourite melodies on the album are the ones that have an ancient, almost folk music-like quality to them. They create a sensation that the listener is hearing music from some world beyond our own but one we can still find familiar and appealing.
There is also strong use of percussion and beats on the album. The drums are deeply powerful and establish a pulse that anchors the tracks. There are also some unique rhythms especially the one on “It’s Happening” that has a sort of limping, offbeat quality to it that adds a layer of interest to the overall sound of the song.
My Favourite Tracks
“Deep Love” has a minor key synth melody that climbs through the track. It has darker shades under the warmth of the analog synth sounds, just as there is melancholy in the deepest love. I’m drawn to the way that the quickly spinning arpeggios give shape to the music along with the solid beat that pulses under that melody. I also liked how the main melody has a wavering hint of something tentative in it.
The beat on "It’s Happening” has an interesting, lopsided feeling to it. This “limping” beat gives the music an oscillating, propulsive quality. I enjoyed the distorted, minor key synth that matches the beat. I also found the ancient, powerful quality of the melody to be quite compelling. Everything possesses a surging feeling that I found intriguing.
Reborn” is full of floating synth chimes and rising chords that remind me of a pipe organ. The delicate that arpeggios spin out underneath a rather classical feeling melody add a sensation of something elegant to the music. There is definitely a feeling of a stringed instrument to that lead synth, warm and full of gentleness that kept me engaged with the track in a strong manner.
There’s a high synth pulse that I felt added a sense of forward motion of the music in “Beautiful.” There is a feeling of triumph and strength to the main melody as it rises and lifts up over the underpinning elements of bass and drums. I was especially enamoured of the ancient and ethereal flute sound which feels timeless and otherworldly. The track overall had a triumphant and bright quality to it that was enjoyable to hear.
“Endless” is driven by a heavy beat and drum throb which adds a strong emphasis to the pulse in the track. The lead synth melody bends and twists in this track. It has a mysterious quality and is joined by another flute sound that is airy and reminiscent of many forms of folk music from around the world. It imbues the track with a pleasing feeling of primal familiarity.
Retrodise take some familiar and some less familiar elements of contemporary synth based music and knits them together into a cohesive, melodically beautiful and musically textured listening experience. Kushna has a unique approach to creating synth-based music that I’d like to hear more of in the future.