Synth Album Review: "Synth Ranger" by Dynamite Stranger
The feature of Dynamite Stranger’s Synth Ranger album that stands out most to me is his unique approach to the synth sounds that are used. There’s an angular, computerized quality to the sounds that runs contrary to the warmer nature of much analog synth music (even if the analog effect is solely created on a DAW). It had elements that told a story although more loosely held together. The tale of the Synth Ranger is one that encompasses an interesting series of elements.
Dynamite Stranger’s approach to melody on Synth Ranger is an interesting one. His melodies have a wandering, improvisational quality and a very digitized feeling through the use of a particular synth sound that also has a sharp edged sound to it. The high tech nature of the Synth Ranger character himself is reflected by a similarly computerized sounding lead synth. It’s a sound that I haven’t heard too often on synth albums lately.
Another element of this album that was intriguing to me was the layering that Dynamite Stranger was doing. His tracks often build up layer on layer of sound, becoming more dense and complex as they evolve. There are quite a few intertwining patterns of bass, drums, synth and pads and moments where they all intersect. Some might find this sound a little busy, but I don't mind music that has a lot of layering and harmonic moments generated by interlocking musical elements.
I’m on the fence about the spoken parts that Dynamite Stranger used on Synth Ranger. I am not sure he needed them because I think the story unfolds quite well just through the music, but they certainly weren't something to which I objected strongly. The one thing that they do well is to establish the bold, brash qualities of the Synth Ranger character. I was left in no doubt about who he was.
Rewind is the one track with singing on the album and it’s something that I was really pleased to hear. It had a super fun, poppy quality to it and I think that Nightmares and Neon’s vocal contribution to the song really hit that synthpop feeling right on the head. Those lyrics, “You make me wanna rewind, replay and repeat/Baby all your loving is music to me” just hit the spot when it comes to creating a synthpop love song feeling.
The other quality that I enjoyed on Synth Ranger was the production. It has a an open feeling and the spaciousness of the soundscape allows for that computerized synth sound to be heard to full effect, feeling tech-y and colder.
Now we come to the part of my review where I’ll run down the tracks on Synth Ranger that were standouts for me and explain the elements that made them stand out as they did.
"Pole Position" has an angular, bouncy synth melody over a smooth bass and drum groove. We get a soloistic, wandering synth line that wriggles and jiggles through. It is a very complex melodic line that feels quite angular. The track has a very busy, full sound to it with all of the different layers moving together. The main melody definitely has a propulsive quality to it that adds to the sensation of high speed racing.
The sounds of control panels and equipment opens "Into The Void." It’s a track that shows off Dynamite Stranger’s facility with creating tracks that have the sensation of powered up energy. He combines a lot of movement in the music and wiggly lines of computerized melody to produce tracks with nervous power in them. I get the sense that there’s some jazz influence on his improvisational and soloistic melodies.
"Dimensions" has intensely heavy, gritty synth bass pulsations and a steady tick of drum rhythm. The beat is solid and insistent along with that wild, main synth line. It has a very free and energized feeling to it as it moves across the surface of the track. There’s an intriguing mixture of light and darkness here and the melody has this sensation of wild abandon to it.
There are qualities about Dynamite Ranger’s Synth Ranger album that set it apart from more traditional styles of synthwave and related genres especially that extremely technological, computerized feeling and the angularity of the melodies as well as their improvisational qualities. I like that he's willing to take a different approach and also to lean into the idea of the music as narrative in nature. Storytelling is one of the reasons I enjoy much of what the #synthfam produces. Let’s hope that Dynamite Stranger keeps telling us stories on future releases.