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Synth Album Review: "Tuning" by Ankh Wave

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.

Cover art by Mad Rachel

Cover art by Mad Rachel

Overall Impressions

Ankh Wave’s Tuning is intended to be like a synth-based radio station that explores a wide variety of different styles of synth music, showcasing his musical evolution. Not only does the album succeed in that regard, but it does so with strong melodies, an engaging synth palette and the ability to draw listeners in with auditory imagery.

Ankh Waves melodic sense is clearly highlighted on Tuning. He writes compelling melodies that are clear, emotionally involving and ear-catching. I enjoy how his melodic writing lays out the emotional colour in musical terms, producing living feelings in the listener’s mind, without undue complication.

The synth palette on Tuning is engaging and lively. The way Ankh Wave can evoke a rich tapestry of instruments from guitar, to an ancient wooden flute to piano creates musical depth and nuance. The more clearly synthetic tones are used to delineate a varied and enjoyable series of timbres and textures from delicate sparkle to gritty weight. As a whole, the synths add to the listener’s journey.

In combination, the two previous elements manage to paint strong mental imagery for me. Each song is a miniature adventure encompassing vast galactic journeys, fantasy quests in timeless worlds or a powerful car rushing down the highway at full speed. I enjoy how each track draws me in and carries me along on a sonic adventure.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Ancient Heart” comes to life as smooth, rising synth clouds billow above the throbbing drum heartbeat and into airy openness. There’s a flowing quality to the piano-like synth as it carries a dynamic note pattern. A folk flute cries out in a climbing line over the bursting, brassy synths and glittering chimes.

The choice of the flute suits the timeless majesty of the melody, lending it a sense of a fantastical quest. Light notes glitter while warmer, medium high synth supports the melody. The sharp edged synth that comes in has an angular quality as shadowed minor key notes rise and hollow, open percussion throbs.

The track flows into sunny sparkles and a round-sounding synth instrument with rich string-like resonance carries a soothing, gliding melodic line. Gritty synth plays a dancing melodic pattern over the steady, undulating pulsation underneath it while the drums flourish.

Energetic piano adds a textural element while a rapidly shifting, intertwining string-like synth flickers over the driving drums. Smooth synth whorls flow easily and the timeless flute cries out the hallowed melody into glittering silence.

A steady, oscillating synth pulse swells brightly while slightly distorted piano notes rise and fall in waves to begin “Trip To The Strange Planet.” Glowing light glitters out and an undulating synth pulse wriggles as the huge drums hit and spinning arpeggiations repeat.

A pulsating, driven synth line and steady bass moves underneath an ethereal, gently singing melody. The melody superbly evokes a sense of cosmic wonder as it unfolds. Flickering synths jump and the track breaks into a tight, wriggling line.

Minor key piano notes and a bending string-like synth add an otherworldly twang. As the drums pulse, a guitar-like sound leaps madly while medium high, rapidly moving synth dances. Higher notes trickle in rapid succession and after a popping drum fill, the glimmering notes all fade.

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“Spinning In the Sky” starts as slowly gliding synths are broken by an elevated twinkle. Solid, massive drums throb and a majestic, caressing synth flow glides in to softly call out. Elevated shiny synth sparks glow and the steady weight of the drums and bass supports the airy, gliding melody. I am drawn to the tenderness of the melody as it touches the music.

A darker bass line drops and brassy notes gleam in mournful contrast while the gigantic drum throb drives the music on. Raised synths glitter and are echoed in a lower, denser synth while a smooth tide of shining notes adds a crystalline light above it all. Huge drums pulsate and we return to a slowly undulating melodic pattern with a slowly unfolding, lightly touching quality before the music ends.

Bells ring and rapidly oscillating, metallic synth arpeggios open “Dance of the Night Creatures.” A dense-sounding, electric guitar cries out in darkly magisterial notes before panpipe synth drifts in an ethereal line.

The guitar writhes and demonic laughter echoes above shining arpeggios above the drumbeat. Distorted, full synth notes swell as thunder claps and the powerfully moving drums and bass support the lusciously intertwined guitar melody.

Triumphant synth chords rise above the constant drum heartbeat as the guitar carries a mournful, emotive melody. I find the guitar solo's intricate shredding and passion infectious as the fuzzed-out synth leaps around it. The guitar’s wild voice rings out over the whirling arpeggios before the track ends.

“Collapse” commences as charging urgent synth crescendoes in an intense rush. Out of that insistent pulse, gleaming synths rise and a firmer direction begins to coalesce in the music. Along with a guitar’s howling, a twisting razor-edged synth shivers into the music. The steady drums and growling guitar add a compelling speed and aggression to the track.

The angular, scattershot bass ripples and broad, glowing synths are cut by the rapidly throbbing drumbeat. Rippling, yearning arpeggios spin as the guitar cuts in jagged, leaping lines while smoother synths glide. Quick, lacerating guitar bursts rise and fall while the unrelenting drums throb. The guitar charges into a powerful churn and then track comes to a halt.

Hard edged, guttural synth sweeps above a quick, propulsive drumbeat to kick off “Aimless Driver.” An interlocking, shimmering synth dances in a flickering line before a guitar sound arcs out to add to the forward motion of the track.

The drums and bass have an insistent pulsation that effectively creates a feeling of flying down the road. Shining synths flash out in a motivating line and the guitar-like synth doubles down on the acceleration. This track produces sensations of asphalt unfolding in a blurred ribbon.

The guitar-like synth twists and leaps forward, like the throttle being pinned while the deep bass and non-stop drums reinforce the feeling of speed. Round-sounding, intertwining synth sings an uplifting melody as the steady drumbeat's drive mirrors propels the track to a conclusion.

Conclusion

Ankh Wave's music is shown here in all its variety. The span of his musical explorations is wide, but it has clearly been high quality from the start. Tuning is both a showcase of the artist's musical evolution and an ear-pleasing synth journey all wrapped up in a tidy package.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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