Synth EP Review: "From Stardust to Dust" by Rylos Running
Rylos Running’s new EP From Stardust to Dust has moments of glowing light and periods of darkness that take the listener on a journey through galactic space and also through human emotion that runs the gamut from hope to fear. The way in which the brightness and the shadows interact on this EP helps give it shape and certainly kept me interested as I listened through it.
My first impression of From Stardust to Dust is how it’s able to provide a spacious canvas for the sounds that moved through it. Everything had space in which to play out and that openness did generate a feeling of moving through the universe as the starlight of the synths and the darkness of the bass sounds intertwined over top of the vast expanse that floated underneath them.
As I alluded to earlier, this is a recording of contrasts. Sometimes there are angular, gritty synth sounds that cut into the tracks and at other times, there’s a real sense of sparkling glow that flickers out from higher, chiming and bell-like synths. Underneath it all there’s a rumble of bass and the rhythms are interesting and varied. Rylos Running also knows how to use breaks in the music to produce flowing, drifting moments that give the listener a chance to pause and gather themselves.
I’d also like to talk about the lyrics and singing of Rylos Running on From Stardust to Dust. The songs on this EP are all well-written and engaging. They have interesting themes and some very nicely crafted imagery in them and Rylos Running’s singing is clear and delivers the emotional content of the music well. The use of vocoder is something that I don’t always like, but here it was reasonably restrained so I could certainly deal with its inclusion.
Now I’ll run through the tracks of this EP and discuss the musical elements along with the lyrics of the songs and talk about what I found interesting in them.
“Blackholes and Silhouettes” begins with sweeping flows of extended and rising synth chords. There’s something serene and delicate as the track opens with sparkling flickers of synth and a deep bass pulse. Rylos Running’s voice breaks into the music, carrying over the throbbing beat. The track quickly becomes more energetic and propulsive. That feeling of layered sonic richness continues as the track begins to close out.
The lyrics contain some very nice imagery in lines like, “Drifting past the light of a starry night/Losing myself on the horizon line/Flashes of her life getting lost in time.”
This is a song about fighting to get back to someone lost, despite the relentless push of time. Rylos Running sings, “Gotta get to my shooting star/Gotta see her through it all now/Doesn't matter how I got this far/‘Cause I know I gotta get back!”
There’s a strong reflection in the song of the way in which life sometimes seems surreal when we experience it. As the lyrics say, “Is this real, or is this just a dream/Oh I don't know if I can tell any more/Losing sight of this old part of me/Gotta get back to the place that I know.”
There’s also a strong sense of time’s rapid passage with this song as in the lyrics, “Cruising at light speed, watching the show/It's just the same thing on and on/Fighting for my time, but I'm losing control…”
Ultimately the point of the song, in my view, can be summed up in the lines, “Wish time were slowing, gotta keep on going/To get to you/The days go on and on, and I'm still moving/Away from you.”
A darker sweep of gritty synth drifts between stereo channels on “New Paradise” before sounds that shine and flicker cut in over the top and an energetic drumbeat kicks in to send the track flying forward. It breaks to rather metallic synth and Rylos Running’s singing leaps into the track, another excellent vocal melody being spun out. I am not always a fan of vocoder but it is quite nicely used here.
The purity of the synth sounds on this track add to the overall feeling of the music. There is real brightness here and good interaction between bass and drums. The contrast between the dark lyrics and the brighter musical elements is also well done.
There’s a real sense of darkness and manipulation in the lyrics of “New Paradise.” There’s an unsettling quality to the message of the song and it was well conveyed in the words. Rylos Running elucidates it nicely in the lines, “No idea, how far along I've gone/But I'm starting to believe that my mind is playing tricks on me/Get me out of here/I'm falling in the dark, there's nothing but fear.”
The disturbing sensation of manipulative motives comes off well in this song. The voice our narrator hears whispers, “Thank you for your sacrifice/It's all in the name of Paradise/We'll make this world a better place/So come along for the end of the human race.” It isn’t clear who or what this mysterious voice is but promises of Utopia are always dangerous.
Our narrator’s sense of desperation only grows as he asks, “Where can I go, what can I feel?/Want to seek out someone who could give me some answers/Feel like I'm out of time/I just wanna believe that everything's fine."
However that dark voice whispers again, the same chilling refrain and the lyrics say, “There's something here/It knows me, it knows my name/What is this fear/That grips me so tightly?”
“The Chase” is a track most characterized by intensely interwoven synth sounds. There’s a high synth that carries the singing, dynamic melody and rapidly whirling arps that dance and move over the deep throb of the bass and an energetic drum rhythm with a unique groove to it. The cascading arps and moments of synth soloing add more energy and movement to the track and the deep bass contrast helps balance the track out.
The contrasts in “Escape The Midnight Machine” help to define it as a track. It beings with airy, chiming synths and a long, deep run of bass that moves smoothly through the music. There are arps with an angular feeling and a rapid pulsing of bright synth that flies over the track. There’s an intense weight to the percussion and bass with a lambent synth melody that dances over the top.
“Shooting Star” is a track that has a darker, more melancholy feeling to it. This track is all about long pulsing sweeps of sound balanced by nervous, rapid arpeggios. There are also moments of light that lift the track as the oscillating arp that is central to the music but eventually it does return to the weight and darkness that are an important aspect to this track.
The main melody of “Out to the Edge” is bright but there’s a sense of wistfulness to it for all of that brightness. The vocals echo and drift, moving through those long waves of synth that lap against them, as bell-like synths sing through the full, rich sound. Everything has a smooth flow to it and the feeling of energy waves rippling out into space pervades the track.
The words talk about an ache to return to simpler, more innocent times even as they drift away. The lyrics yearn for “dreams of a time full of life/catching fireflies” in contrast to the chorus which says “I've gone too far, I've gone too far/I don't want this to go further.”
The narrator feels himself “riding out to the edge of the rising stars/moving further and further away” but there’s still “Bright innocence/Calling me, holding me so close/Shining a light/Calling me, calling me back home.”
The feeling of galactic space, the interesting musical contrasts and the well-constructed and performed lyrics on From Stardust to Dust were quite compelling for me. I am glad to have heard from Rylos Running and I do hope that in future he creates more music that has a similarly interesting and engaging sound.