Synthwave Album Review: "Androids Anonymous" by Miles Matrix
Miles Matrix explores a darker and grittier world of cyberpunk-influenced sounds on Androids Anonymous. The album is set in a cyberpunk dystopia in the year 2084 when robots have become sentient and “humanity must deal with this new ethical frontier.” This is the backdrop for the dark, intense, but sometimes warm and beautiful, music that Miles Matrix has created on this album.
If I could say one thing about Androids Anonymous it would be that it’s an album of contrasts. Differences in tone, timbre and even how light or dark the tracks are on the album really showcase the overall story that Miles Matrix is unfolding for the listener. His explorations wind through influences that go beyond synthwave to include EDM, tech-house and trance as well as ‘80s movie scores.
The first thing that I wanted to mention was the quality of the production on the album. I found everything to be pin-sharp and nicely balanced. There was not one element that overtook another. Everything slotted in where it should have in my view and I never felt like anything was out of place. I was also struck by the effectiveness with which Miles Matrix deployed his arsenal of synths on the album. Each tone fit well within the thematic nature of the album.
Sometimes I find cyberpunk a hard concept to pin down in synthwave music. I think that the harder hitting elements on this track are a good sonic guide to what I consider cyberpunk. For me, it’s much more of a mood related thing. The overall psychological state that Androids Anonymous creates for me is one that combines tension, darkness, industrial grind and the occasional moments of melancholy hope.
The sonic territory through which the album wanders is broad, but the tracks are all tied together by the unfolding imagery that they create. Androids Anonymous feels a lot like a soundtrack to either a cyberpunk-style movie or video game. All of the different tracks combine to unfold a cinematic storyline in one’s head and I am definitely appreciative of that approach.
There were some tracks that were truly grabbing for me, but I enjoyed the album as a whole. I’ll talk about them a bit and why it was that I found them compelling, just to help give you all a flavour of the album.
i miss the beat of your heart was the first track that I found especially strong. It has a dance music vibe with its solidly thudding bass beat. A synth comes in playing oscillating arpeggios as a “laser” type of sound bounces in and out of the track. As the drums come in, there’s a warm and delicate synth melody that starts singing out. The Vangelis-style synth brass that Miles Matrix uses really lifts this track up. I was also very appreciative of the open, spacious sound of the track.
The next track that I found compelling was no robot left behind. The track begins with a deep, vaguely menacing synth drone through which a wind-like sound sweeps. Initially the synth lead is melancholy as it wanders through the droning background, but it begins to swell into a dramatic, cinematic synth melody backed by a pulsating beat. For a short passage, the track contracts into something dark and claustrophobic before soaring back into a synth that sings over the insistent beat. This song had the sense of a piece of classical music, complete with movements and tempo changes.
Perhaps my favourite track from the album is Cyborgs at the beach. It combines a driving rhythm with a synth melody that flies over the top of it. There’s a good deal of warmth in that synth and the openness in the melody is one of the things that I love about synths. Miles Matrix’s decision to add vocoder vocals fit nicely with the synthetic, robotic sense of Androids Anonymous. The feeling of “beach” definitely came through on this track for me in the overall aural picture that it painted for me.
As a sort of concept album, I found the whole album quite effective. The notion of storytelling is clearly of importance to Miles Matrix and he delivers well on the promise that the album makes of taking the listener on a journey. I was also a fan of the way Miles Matrix deployed digital and “robotic” sounds on the album in order to emphasize the technological nature of the album. If you want to be transported on a musical journey by an album, you can’t go wrong with Androids Anonymous.