Synth EP Review: "Hyperwave" by Damokles
Exploring a wide variety of different synth sounds is something Damokles has been doing since the 1980s and Hyperwave is a continuation of that creative journey. This is an album that definitely has a strong ‘80s flavour but also avoids cliché by moving the music in a different direction with unique sounds and his own musical language that moves the album in a different direction from typical retrowave fare.
The first thing I’d note about Damokles is that many of his tracks are infused with funk and jazz influences from the lead synth solos to the feeling of some of the rhythms. I enjoy the uplifting feeling that funky, groovy sensibility brings to the music. The old school, fun rapping that happens over "Hyperwave" also adds another dimension to the EP.
Another hallmark of Damokles’ sound is the wide range of different beats and percussion he uses on Hyperwave. There are the expected drum sounds with an ‘80s feel but also some more varied percussion sounds and we get everything from fairly typical ‘80s pop beats through to disco and dancier sounds. Most importantly, once again, I can tell that he’s having a blast making music and that joy comes through loud and clear.
The lyrics to Damokles’ songs are always unique and entertaining. On this EP, we get an ode to music making in "Hyperwave", a song about humanity’s future in "Many Light Years Away" and a song about how one brief, fleeting moment can transform our lives in "You're Still Around." All of the songs are engaging and Damokles’ voice is quite individual. I like it when I can identify a singer because they have a distinctive sound and he most definitely does.
Now I’ll run through the songs that I enjoyed most on this EP and talk about what factors made me enjoy them.
“Hyperwave” is all about bouncing, groovy beats and Damokles’ unique percussion. There’s just such energy in this track. I enjoy how the bounce moves the track along. The chorus is catchy, with the synths and Damokles’ voice interlocking nicely. The stabs of trumpet-like synth sounds add to the energetic feeling of the track. There’s a cool wandering, flying solo synth and that entertaining rap part hits.
This is a song about what happens when an artist gets pulled into the act of creation in a deep way. Damokles calls it the “Hyperwave” and expresses it like this, “When the Zone opens upand I simply can't stop/I'm a musical slave/And I go Hyperwave.”
I can relate to the feeling in writing. It’s quite similar when you reach a “transcendent state of mind/just leaving it all behind/the feeling is so immense.” I get the sense that it is similar for all of us people with a creative bent and Damokles expresses it well.
I also really dug the old school rap and could really relate to the lines, “It's a feeling that is better than sex/When you're locked in and everything checks” because I’ve felt that quite strongly when in the midst of writing something.
Rapidly oscillating synth sounds open “Moments In Between” as they charge forward, slightly rising and falling as the throbbing bass hits the track along with a propulsive drum beat. There’s a pretty strong disco feeling to the beat on this track. The main melody has a deviousness to it that’s a lot of fun. Again I enjoyed the solo lead that creates an energized soaring feeling, climbing over that infectious beat. The main melody is catchy and has a crystalline clarity to it that I enjoyed
“Many Light Years Away” was my favorite track on the EP. I liked the overall sound of the track from the metallic percussion sounds in it to the washes of warm synth sounds and the flowing, open nature of the main melody which gave me a sense of uplift. The interesting thing is, that even when I feel uplifted, there’s still a hint of melancholy in that melody. The synth solo on this track is downright jazzy.
This song is a hymn to human ingenuity and the hope that we’ll triumph over challenges and our own nature to move forward in a positive way. It cautions against seeking utopias instead of focusing on solving problems here and now.
The lyrics discuss “dreams, visions, science and inventions” and reminds us about the continuing process of innovation and experimentation as the say “Keep evolving/Problem-solving/Faster/Better/We will get there.”
The chorus is about the possibility of humanity finding a new world to start over on but cautions us that it is “so far, very far away.” Until that point, Damokles reminds us that, “Reaching for the stars is our DNA/In conflict with desires that lead us astray/We must come together and face what we fear/'Cause it will be a long time before we are there.”
The feeling of “You’re Still Around” is intriguing. It’s the story of how a moment’s inspiration can be enough to set us on a new course. The drums on this track have a real power and the synth lead soars over the crunchier synths underneath. The synth lead on this track dances and riffs nicely. It has a real ear worm quality to it.
This is a song about a fleeting experience and the impression that it left. It’s the story of a moment when we are “numb, without a feeling” and we think ourselves beyond repair in an “emotionless state, no chance of healing.”
In a flash, he says, “Love, and light had risen, I could see colors everywhere/So far and above, my darkest prison” and goes on to say, “You had brought me back to life/Night just turned to day/With you here, there was no sign of strife!/You carried me away!”
Just as quickly, the moment passed but as the lyrics say, “I still have your memory/And I can feel you're still around!/With all that gold, right here in my treasury/I will go on, when I should have drowned.”
“Empty Streets” has fascinating percussion sounds on it. This track’s warm synths drift over a smooth beat. There’s a hopeful quality to the main melody that is still touched by a hint of tragedy. It has a ballad like quality to it and I love the feeling as that wandering cascading solo leaps along through the track.
Damokles has created an energetic, interesting and diverse EP with Hyperwave. It explores a wide palette of synth sounds, percussion and beats along with some great lead synth soloing and a general sense of fun and freedom. I am looking forward to whatever he creates next.