Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.
Dark Side of Synth’s EP Promenade Promises is not at all dark. In fact, it’s a fun and generally upbeat recording full of Italo disco energy, melodies played on bright and uplifting synths and an overall feeling of warm summer nights and a nostalgic feeling that flows through the music. There’s solid melodic writing here and like many of the best melodies, there’s a touch of melancholy in them.
The first comment I want to make about Promenade Promises is that it has great density of sound given by shimmering synths that resonate through deeply throbbing bass and the steady pulsation of drums underpinning them. There’s a smooth flow to the music, but it is also imbued with energy and motion to propel the EP forward.
I’ve already mentioned the melodic writing abilities of Dark Side of Synth, but I enjoy how he creates these melodic passages that dance and sparkle, but they are often brushed by a gentle sadness. It’s the sadness that comes with knowing that eventually even the best times pass and we’re only left with memories of them to cherish.
The instrument choices are good on Promenade Promises as well. I was especially drawn to the jazz organ like sounds that he uses on some of the tracks as well as the sax. Saxophone can be misused and overused at times in retro synth music, but here I think it adds a warm and uplifting quality that really hit home with me. All of the synths he uses also work to add different timbres and emotional expressions on this EP.
Finally I just want to comment on his use of rhythms and beats on the EP. I have long been a fan of the Italo disco sound but even on the tracks that don’t have it, there’s still a lot of nice energy and throb to the beats. I also like the way deep pulses and washes of bass move through the music.
Track By Track Analysis
Here is a look at each track.
“Hey Italo” has an addictive Italo disco beat that drives the track along energetically. I enjoy how swelling waves of synth warmth coalesce into a bright, cascading series of notes as the oscillating bass and throbbing drums move under it. This track has a lightness and an airy feeling to it as everything glides onward, bright notes glowing above as everything flows along with ease. I like how the sax comes in singing breathily and with passion through the music, adding a sense of nostalgia to the track.
I really enjoy the warm jazz organ sounds that reverberate out into open space on “Promenade Promises.’’ I like how the bass line pulsates into the track, growing in energy as the drums also add their steady pulse to the track. I feel a strong pull from the delicate, ear-caressing melody that softly flows through the track starts on a synth and is eventually taken up by the sax that bursts into the track. I also like the gently shining clusters of notes that the jazz organ plays.
“Beach Bonfire” combines chiming synths and airy sax to produce an image of a summer night’s breeze and the crackling bonfire on the sand. The melody on this track is rich with memories of a warm summer, carried on the sax that calls out, imbued with gentle energy. I enjoy the smoothness of the drums on the track as that easy pulsation sails smoothly along. There’s a more minor key section that is tinged with sadness and memory that I felt gave the track depth.
The EP closes on “Italo Nights” which is a real Italo disco banger. The beat hits good and hard with a slightly rough edge and bright synth chords leap over the beat. The drums and bass propel the track forward with real conviction. My ears enjoy the slightly disjointed bright synth notes that start to coalesce into a pattern as well as the string-like notes that gently dance into the music. I find the wandering, subtly tragic melody quite touching as warm washes of synth sound also flow up and around it. This track had a great pulse and a feeling of intertwining about it.
Promenade Promises is an EP full of the good sort of nostalgic feelings that make the best retro synth music, but it doesn’t resort to clichés. There’s strong melodies, driving beats and a clarity and sharpness to the sound that makes this an enjoyable offering from Dark Side of Synth.