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Synthpop Album Review: "Dream Tether" by Infra Violet

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

Infra Violet’s Dream Tether is an album rich with lyrical and vocal emotion, well-thought out musical backing and a nice blend of more energetic songs with introspective, emotionally fraught examinations of the contradictions and struggles of being human.

Bethany Munroe’s voice is a central pillar of this album. It has a unique tone and timbre to it that allows her to emote powerfully and express the meaning in the lyrics. She can let it soar out over the music or have it become intimate and caressing to find the right feeling for the lyrics. It adds strongly to the atmosphere of the songs on this album.

The lyrics of the songs on Dream Tether roam across the challenging terrain of our relationships to ourselves and others, making detours to speak about the human condition and the places in which we find ourselves. The lyrics are thoughtfully written and create strong imagery in the songs that grabs my attention.

Toby Campen and Bethany Munroe weave together a rich array of musical threads to create a densely textured final result on Dream Tether. Toby Campen’s synth work adds timbres and tones that support the imagery of the lyrics while Bethany Munroe’s guitar adds interest and intricacy. A bed of bass and drums supports all of the elements and adds some direction.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Polaroid” comes to life with a quick pulse of intense bass and a dense, dark synth with rough edges playing blocks of shifting, sparkling sound. Bethany Munroe’s smoky, expressive voice carry over the urgent bass throb as a glowing line of synth descends gently. The drums keep pulsing, pushing the song forward.

I am drawn to how emotive the vocals are as the synths tremble and glitter and the beat goes on. The chorus launches, the drums charge and deep synths add grit and weight. There’s a break into battering drums and little guitar flashes before the song launches out again.

Relationships break, in spite of our fondest wishes that they’ll go on. This song is an exploration of the emotional fallout of a broken relationship. The narrator starts out saying that “love is not for you and me. I’m so glad all we made were memories.” I enjoy the way the lyrics contrast the narrator’s statement that she is “just enough to forget” with “you’re too much to enjoy the regret.”

The sense of distance our narrator feels from love is clear when she says it is not for mortals, but for the “pure divine.” She asks what right she has to “hold love in this little heart of mine?” There’s an empty feeling as the narrator says, “You’re a memory, never mine to make” and talks about how the person to whom she refers is like a “Polaroid I can’t quite shake.” The problem is that their memory will fade in time but “never enough, never the same.”

However she contends that having her heart broken is worth it “just to feel something outside of me” adding that with each “shattered heartbeat” she’s reminded that she exists “enough to be lonely.” The song ends as she says that if love “never mattered” because it was just a game to the other person, equally it won’t matter if love is a game to her that she has lost that person.

A throbbing synth pulse is is joined by round, full synths that drift out in reverberating lines as “Grow” opens. Bethany Munroe’s guitar cries and the drums hit hard with a propulsive beat as the elevated guitar glitters high over them. The vocals add ache and expression to the lyrics as the drums and bass push the track on.

I enjoy how the guitar sings out in a shimmering line while Bethany Munroe’s voice climbs and soars with passion. An angular synth sings out as the chorus rises again, driving the words into my heart with their expression. A gentler, gliding passage is played by Toby Campen on intertwined synth and we return to the “A” section again.

Humanity has damaged the planet in awful ways and this song is an expression of anguish for that fact. The narrator’s pain and rage is clear as she says “if this is how we behave, Earth has no place for us deeper or kinder than a grave.”

There’s a deep ache in her words as she says, “I don’t want the steps we leave behind us to outlive us like a burn” or to know that she may have done more damage than if I’d never been born.”

As she breathes in “the last of the mess I made” she’ll “lie down in the earth and I will hope I did ok.” There is a feeling of righteous anger when she says, “I am here for good reasons goddammit!” She is adamant that she won’t be “a parasite” because “I am worth more than that, we are worth more than that.”

“Gold” begins with a strong drumbeat that collides with growling bass and Bethany Munroe’s strong voice calls out. High synth sparks glow out over the throbbing drums and bass. I enjoy the shimmering light of those synths above the triumphant vocal melody. The drums add weight and movement to push the song forward.

This song is an expression of defiance and fighting back after having been damaged by a past relationship. The narrator sets her jaw as she says, “They said take the damage, piece it together with gold.” The lyrics create an image of building a metal shell that is “bold as brass and just as cold.” I am drawn to the idea that she’ll “crystallise the confines of my chest” to create something “sharper, more beautiful than flesh.”

In becoming adamantine, she says that now this person “can’t touch me…won’t ever come near me” because she has “no skin left to hold.” The damage this person did to her means that now she has a “heart of gold.”

She has replaced her vulnerability with “twisted, jagged crystal shards” that are too tiny to grasp as her “18 carat bruises” become solid gold. Her ribcage is now a “shining cavity” which is a space reserved only for her now. Now she will “justify the damage you did” by making it beautiful. She ends, “So when I don’t let anybody else in, I’ll say it’s you who put me here.”

The guitar leaps in an intricate, pulsing and oscillating line as Bethany Munroe’s emotive vocals rise out over the throbbing drums to kick off “Mess.” The drum beat shapes the music with a smooth drive and the guitar intertwines with the vocal melody that leaps warmly through the song.

The active bassline moves in a throbbing wave below the round, shimmering synth that moves above the interwoven guitar line. I enjoy the intricate nature of how the different musical elements interact in this song. Bethany Munroe’s vocals cry out as the drums batter and the synths circle each other and glitter while the drums propel the song onward.

Life can be about accepting the mess it leaves us in and finding someone else to share in the messiness of living. The song starts out with a simple statement that “with big, bloodshot eyes you said the mess will provide.” I enjoy the image of it providing “rizlers* or filters, or reasons to stay alive.”

The two of them are “each other’s mess” and the “drunk therapy at 3 a.m.” is still just as important now as when they started out. The chorus is an encouragement to “make yourself proud first” and let everybody else wait. They’re engaged in a “friendly competition” to see who can make the most mistakes.

The narrator admits that they don’t know what they’re doing and they aren’t about to stop. She adds, “We don’t owe perfect to justify living.” There is a strong sense of acceptance in the lines, “Yeah come let’s take it all, just the mess that we are”

In the end they have “big, bloodshot love” for each other. As they haul one another up, the narrator acknowledges that “we’ll never be diamonds, but we’ve made it through the rough.” There is deep emotion as the narrator goes on to say “you are my strength to get back up again when hope is long gone.”

She adds that the other person gives her the strength to be naïve and to “believe this somehow makes us stronger” and once again adds that one needs to “make yourself proud first” and let everyone else wait.

Our narrator concludes that “every mistake I’ve made with you is the best I’ve ever made.”

“Wanderlust” comes to life with a shimmering, folky guitar dancing into the song along with her voice’s unique timbre carrying the light, airy vocal melody. The acoustic guitar adds a light touch, shining over the subtle, misty synth bed and the discrete bass oscillation. I feel a strong draw to the way that Bethany Munroe’s voice aches, emotes and swells into the track. The chorus caresses and the drums pulsate as the song ends on gentle guitar and light.

This song’s lyrics are an exploration of the idea of finding a place for oneself and seeking a way to be. The narrator begins with the lines, “A feeling I can best describe as intense dark violet light” as she says that the closest she gets to having a home is “is on a mountaintop at night.”

She says she hasn’t found “my home thoughts, my home planets” and that she breathes in “something more than me” and breathes out “normal human breath.” She is just “trying to find something beautiful” and that “all I am is wanderlust.”

I am enamoured of the idea that she is “jealous of the particles in me” because they are “free to leave and choose to come back.” She adds that she has “always known my home” but doesn’t know how to return to it.

The insignificance of “little earthly cares” is compared to atoms in the air “against a solar flare.” Our narrator says that the stars scare her because “I’m not them, I’m not there.” The song concludes as she asks, “Is anybody there?”

A hazy sonic wash, distant piano notes and solidly throbbing bass move below the leaping vocals to kick off “Deny.” Distant piano floats and a dense bass throb begins to oscillate in rapid pulses while a digital-sounding synth plays a vibrating pattern of notes. There’s also a stuttering beat that breaks into the track.

The vocals have a deeply emotive feeling as the distant synth floats and digital notes move in flickering patterns. Wind rises and flows around the vocals and the beat as they distort and move out into open space along with the bright notes pulse. The chorus soars in again over the hazy background as the track ends.

Sometimes the power of passion is so overwhelming that, no matter the cost, we can’t resist it. This song explores that feeling powerfully. The narrator begins with the lines, “Oh my god, I can’t be here again. Oh my god, I can’t be this again.”

The narrator goes on to admit her familiarity with the song’s subject and their nature, prompting her to ask, “Why not get far too close to me?” She says that she hates the situation because “I just fixed this mess in me.” The “primal familiarity” between them will be “the death of me.”

She points out that if she didn’t have an imagination she “would never fall like this” or experience the “obsessive desperation” to which the song’s subject reduces her. She says that she’ll “deny it down to my DNA, deny the fall down to my humble place.”

She now has an “incentive to deserve what doesn’t exist.” She begs for strength and pleads, “don’t reduce me to this again” because “I know this feeling, I know you.”

Conclusion

Dream Tether is an album that creates beautiful aural imagery through lush musical palettes, powerful vocals and lyrics that are evocative and expressive. I am always eager to hear what Infra Violet comes up with.

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