Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!
DXO’s latest EP Retro Kid is indeed touched with a lovely retro synth sound, but I would argue it doesn’t cling slavishly to the ‘80s nostalgia of synthwave. It combines retro elements with an overall feeling of flow and a certain wistful feeling that infuses the melodies and the synths that DXO has used to create the album. There are some very delicate moments to go with the driving energy that also pours from some of the tracks.
EP Review: "Retro Kid" by DXO
Let’s talk about DXO's melodies on Retro Kid because they stood out for me. Whether he's writing something more upbeat like "The Hitchhiker" or a track that has a real melancholy to it like "Low Fuel", I feel like his melodies capture the mood of each track. I also enjoyed the fact that many of them have a certain yearning, aching feeling to them even if they are seemingly more upbeat.
Lately I have been hearing some wonderful guitar work coming out of the #synthfam and Retro Kid has more of it. There’s a great warm quality to the guitar tone and his solos dance and flicker rather than shredding and howling which suits the mood of Retro Kid better and contributes to the wistful feeling I got when listening to it.
The lead synths that DXO has chosen for this album all seem to have a sparkle and warmth to them. The combination of those lighter, gentler characteristics with the slightly sadness tinged melodies serves to emphasize the expressiveness of them. I also found that those glowing characteristics made a nice contrast with the deep bass that wells up throughout the EP and sends its throbs out into space.
“Satellite One” is full of sparkling, flickering robotic synth sounds that are underpinned by a deep well of bass that throbs under them. I had the strong sense of the openness of outer space sweeping around me.
I picture a spinning satellite as the slow arp revolves into the track. I enjoy the strong, shining melody played on a higher synth that contrasts with the longer sweeps of sound flowing out into darkness underneath it.
There’s such smoothness to “My Star” from the synths that glide in the background to the easy beat that slides into the track along with a sparkling synth melody that’s just a little wistful. There's a feeling of billowing about the track as that caressing melody sails out and then the guitar sings in rich tones, sending leaping bursts of notes out into space.
The lyrics are touched by an aching quality. In a vocoder voice DXO sings, "Even though I'm millions of light years from home, the fear and sadness take hold of me here/Is there anything I can do if every second is eternal here? And after all she's my star I want to see her forever shine.”
“Time Travellers” has long flows of airy sound accompanied by a slightly funky synth bass that rumbles underneath playing an ear grabbing pulse as the melody dances delicately through the track. The lead synth’s soft touch gives a feeling of drifting along on currents of time and as the track evolved I heard a jazzier edge come into that melody while the track slid along with ease.
There’s a throbbing synth bass and slow, powerful drums that provide a heart beat for "Hidden Galaxy” along with a soaring melody that carries me forward and makes me feel as if I’m gliding and swooping through the stars while a xylophone plays interesting melodic patterns in the background. There is a sense of something being revealed on this cosmic journey as the music soars forward.
“The Hitchhiker” is more of a classic piece of synthwave with throbbing bass and a driving beat. There are propulsive guitars and a dancing lead synth. Everything is neon infused as it leaps forward and a solo sax cries out into the track, full of intense feelings of yearning as the deep synth bass is doubled with electric bass. A dynamic, whirling guitar solo flies into the track as the main synth line sings out full of a sense of possibility
There's a sense of emptiness and darkness in “Low Fuel” as a long series of extended synth notes float over deep bass and a sad, computerized sounding lead synth moves into the vastness of the track. A slowly flickering keyboard melody moves into the track tinged by the knowledge of what will come as the fuel runs out. The glow of synth paints an image: the stars are still out there in the dark, tiny points of fading light as the craft drifts slowly away towards emptiness.
Retro Kid is an EP that is quite full of emotion. It has a very rich feeling to it in between the guitar solos, melodic beauty played on singing lead synths and underpinnings that keep everything moving through space. I was also struck by the strength of the musical images and compelled by the overall sense of openness and drifting in the sound of the music.