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Synth Album Review: "Unlightenment" by Millicow

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

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Initial Impressions

Millicow’s Unlightenment album is another one of his trademark mixtures of complex sounds and musical textures. It has an experimental edge, but still maintains strong melodic content and a melancholy, emotional tone that continues throughout the album.

Melodic writing is something that Millicow does well. The melodies on this album are well-crafted and full of emotion. There’s something yearning and aching about them on the tracks where they are strongest. They contrast with some of the harsher, stranger sounds quite nicely.

There are some dark, twisting tracks on Unlightenment as well. Millicow’s use of hard hitting sounds that have a cutting and ominous quality to them definitely ramps up the shadowy atmosphere on those tracks. There are strong images being painted in sound on this album.

In direct contrast to the darkness on the album, there are also moments of ethereal warmth and beauty. Here pillowy clouds of synth flow and glow while smooth beats glide underneath. The mixture of all of these varied elements holds my interest as Unlightenment unfolds.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Arago Spot” begins with a wash of yearning, expressive strings as dark bass hovers underneath the touching melody that has a real resonance to it. The warm melody flows through the music with the bass deep and thrumming underneath it.

I am drawn to the aching feeling of the strings as they limn the touching melody that wends its way along. A deep, droning bass sound shifts in full, round pulses underneath the strings as the medium high synth is a little rough edged above the melancholy of the strings as they fade.

A breaking stuttering beat touches the music of “Elevator Man” along with a bright, slightly nasal synth sound that moves in a repeating pattern over the landscape of sounds that flutter and flicker in and out of the music. The beat keeps up a broken stutter up as bright laser bursts of sound shoot through the track.

“Psychosis” comes to life with a deep flow of bass and distorted vocal samples that glitch and stutter. A glimmering, chip-tune arpeggio slowly moves along with steady dark synth pulses that break to the flow of sound and choppy voices.

The deep bass pattern is joined by quick drum flurries and a powerful, ominously heavy repeating melodic pattern that rises and falls with a sense of domination. I am enamoured of the darkly victorious feeling of the lead melody as the drums break and batter.

A slowly moving synth with a tinge of sadness and a trumpeting quality to it is joined by a flow of shadowy vocal synth to open “Balance.” The beat hits with a solid, slow pulse as the pattern of trumpeting medium-high synth spins around and the dark voices drop low and shadowed underneath the steady pattern.

There’s a series of drum hits as a steady high arpeggio is played on a harder-edged, higher synth with a hint of pipe organ to it. The patterns of drums remain steady under the higher whorls of sound. This track has a hypnotic quality to it that I enjoy. It ends on full bells that wind gently down into silence.

“Eternity” kicks off with rising, warm waves of static sound and a smooth drum beat. Gentle, soft synth winds out in a mournful and caressing pattern as the notes climb up on a synth with interesting string qualities to it. A repeating pattern of expanding metallic, still warm sound hums in the background as those rising breaths of bright synth carry the track upward.

I enjoy the delicately uplifting lead melody that has an ancient quality to it as moves through the track. It sings out over the climbing, drifting synths underneath it as the beat glides and pulses. The lead melody cries out and touches the ears with a sense of hope and sadness. Deeply resonant sounds climb through the music and fill it up now as they slide onward.

Conclusion

In the end, it was the textured sonic tapestry of Unlightenment which I found most grabbing. The way Millicow has woven together different timbres of synths, evoked different emotions and created soundscapes was what drew me in most.

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