Synth Album Review: "Synthesism" by Gregory Clement Jr.
Gregory Clement Jr’s Synthesism is an album that takes the listener on a voyage through the cosmos. Metallic, shiny and sometimes icy synths flicker and dance across a backdrop of intensely deep bass and the pulsing throb of interlocking, complex drum rhythms creates a sense of movement across those vast distances and breathtaking spacescapes.
One of the strongest aspects of Synthesism has to be the drums and that’s not surprising. Gregory’s first instrument was the drums and the strength and variation of the rhythms that he utilizes on this album definitely adds to the auditory appeal of the music. He combines those varied and powerful beats with bass that is cosmic in proportion. There’s such a weight, depth and intensity to the bass here that contributes to a sensation of moving across the vast distances and staggering vistas of the universe.
Another compelling aspect of the album is the shining, sometimes icy synth work. Gregory uses a variety of synths that have metallic, chiming, shimmering sounds that evoke the cold light of the stars in the velvet backdrop of space. The way in which Synthesism is able to generate cosmic imagery is powerful and compelling stuff. I certainly enjoyed the journey on which it took me.
Synthesism is an album that makes innovative use of the qualities of synths and the way they interact with other musical elements. I enjoyed that Gregory was interested in extending what one can do with contemporary synth music on this album and branching out in another direction.
Now I will break down the tracks on Synthesism that I enjoyed the most and run through the reasons why they were so compelling to me.
“Destructive” opens with a dense chorus of bright synths that feel intense and intertwined with an intense quality to them. One of Gregory’s signature powerful drumbeats thunders underneath the rising aggregation of sound that breaks into a delicate, gentle keyboard line. That throb and pulse of heavy drums continues pounding out a rhythmic beat behind the dense synths. This track creates the feeling of truly gigantic astronomical events unfolding in front of the listener. The kind of destruction about which this track speaks is something on the scale of stars and there’s a rather triumphant feeling about the track’s sound that reflects such unfathomable power.
A shifting, bouncing synth line is the opening to “Undetected Planets.” That wandering synth line dances acros the weight of the bass that comes in to fill the track and is backed up by the sound of Gregory’s solid drumming. This track generates images of vast openness as that limpid synth continues to flicker along over the big, widespread sound of the backing elements.
A new meandering lead synth line is played on a computerized sounding synth. Out of what seems chaos, comes structure as the track’s various elements interlock and create a sensation of energy and movement. There is a sense of excitement and I can imagine flying past the “undetected planets” as the track unfolds.
“Obscurity of the Universe” starts out with high, almost brittle synths that flicker but this track is defined by the intensity and depth of the bass that starts to flow ceaselessly into the track. There’s also what sounds like the growl of an electric guitar mixed in with that bass and of course the signature drums that define the sound of this album so strongly. The sheer weight of the sonic elements behind this track is powerful. Out of that weight, the higher synth notes rise, still feeling slightly small in comparison to the bass sound here. There is an evocative sense of the intense darkness of space from which small bright flashes of light emerge as they are passed by.
Drifting and airy synths touch lightly on the wide open background of “Advanced Robots.” High, oscillating synths dance over that open sounding base and then the punchy drum beats roll in as the high synths jump and flicker. This track has a propulsive feeling given by the drums that push on until the synth pattern emerges. There’s a contrasting section with piano notes that feel ethereal in contrast to the grounded drums. The reason this track compelled me was the contrast between those relatively delicate high synths and the weight of drums and bass under them. It created a cool energy for the track to be sure.
“Cybernetic” begins with chiming and shimmering synths fly over the gentle washes of sound that drift out ethereally. The twinkling, oscillating synth pattern is not completely settled and there’s steady driving beat along with a fuzz of sound that spreads out more roughly underneath it. The contrast of those shiny synth chimes and the deeper part of the track is intense again. This is a track that has a threatening quality to it that unfolds as it continues. The drums, bass and that aggressive fuzz of sound lend the sense of menace while the higher synth feels more and more tightly wound and full of nervous energy as the track progresses.
I definitely liked how Gregory Clement Jr. was able to generate that feeling in the music.
I must say that Synthesism was an album that transported me on a journey that was unique and powerful. The ways in which the synths, the drums and the bass all interact was unique and produced an innovative approach to modern synth music. I hope Gregory Clement Jr. keeps pushing forward and making his very personal take on synth-based music.