Synth EP Review: "Ventura Blvd" by The Subtheory
The Subtheory has created a dark, futuristic auditory world on his Ventura Blvd EP. It evokes a city full of corruption, danger and crime through its cold, technological and sometimes sparse soundscape. This is a recording full of mood and atmosphere that generated strong imagery for me as it unfolded each track.
Ventura Blvd’s musical content is definitely full of cool shadows. Those shadows come from the thick bass that rolls underneath the music, the synths that project cold and sometimes mechanistic tones and the sense of menace that oozes from the minor key melodies that move through that dark background.
The dense net of heavy drumbeats and weighty bass is an important part of the mood of Ventura Blvd in my view. The way those two elements interact produce a sensation of threat and menace that permeates all of the tracks and adds to the gritty picture painted by the other elements of the music.
I alluded to the synth choices that The Subtheory had made earlier because I think they had a strong effect on the feel of this album. Rather than going for the warm tones that analog synths can produce, he has focused on icy, robotic or tech-y sounds that create a more minimalist and threatening feeling. I think that Ventura Blvd’s ability to create imagery wouldn’t be as effective without having taken that route.
The production values on this recording are worth commenting on. It has a crisp sound to it that really conveys each musical element clearly and also manages to emphasize the drum and bass sounds without allowing them to take over the whole EP.
As this is an EP, I’ll comment on each of the tracks on Ventura Blvd in turn and discuss what I found interesting about them.
To preface the start of the aural “movie” that The Subtheory has created, “Shiny Things” starts off with a retro TV announcer to introduce the recording. All of the sonic elements glide coolly on this track. The tech-y synth sounds flow in waves and the dark bass and drums add an element of shadow to the music. The repeating synth pulses and expanding arps add a sweeping feeling to this track.
“Two Years” opens with spinning arps that rise and fall over crunchy synth bass. It has a coldness to it and the electric guitar on the track adds a certain bite to the music, although it is kept a little back in the mix. The distance of it only adds to the atmosphere here. The high, computerized sounding synth melody that comes into the track reinforces the sense of futuristic darkness that fills this EP.
The combination of pulsing bass, thumping drums and slightly hollow sounding arps with a minor key melody creates a sense of tension on “Ventura Blvd.” The extending synth chords add shadings of more darkness to the track and the flow of the synths contrasts with the unrelenting drum and bass movements underneath them.
“Venger’s Revenge” combines a darkly throbbing beat, a unique metallic sounding synth and a certain amount of dissonance. The synth notes have a hollow, cold tone as they move through the track. The synth melody here is dense and has just a hint of distortion at points which further cements the menacing feeling of the track.
The Subtheory has managed to, in a short space, paint a sonic landscape that had quite a bit of depth to it on Ventura Blvd. It is full of shade and weight, swept by cold and computerized sounds and drenched in an atmosphere of barely contained threat. It’s a sonic world I hope The Subtheory will return to again.