Synthwave Album Review: Diamond Ace, "Future Love"
Diamond Ace describes his album Future Love as a meditation on “love, darkness and finding the light.” It is drenched in an atmosphere of shifting emotional contrasts. At times, I felt a centered stillness touching me and at other times the music threw off waves of tense energy that swirled around me. The yin/yang qualities of light and darkness, of peace and tension mingle and blend on this album. The music can be a calm pool to drift on or a journey through emotional landscapes that shift and flicker through a range of emotions.
The tracks that are still, calm and settled embrace that feeling. They flow and drift, anchored by smooth beats and bass that is like the cool depths of a river. The music can turn and suddenly with a energetic burst of electric guitar and a beat that surges forward, break that stillness like a thunderstorm. It is the balance of these contrasting forces that I feel was so well worked out by Diamond Ace.
I want to mention the electric guitar work on this album. Whether it is the guitar work done by Retroglyphs on “Future Signs” or Diamond Ace’s own playing, the soloistic flights of the electric guitar lift and expand the sonic scope of the music. The guitar infuses the tracks in which it’s featured with energetic motion that is in harmony with the backing synths, bass and drums. The guitar definitely lifts the tracks, but it never overwhelms the other elements that comprise the music.
The other special mention I want to make is SUNESIS’ vocals on the track for which the album is named - “Future Love.” She has a compelling, slightly smoky voice and enough strength in that voice to propel the track forward with convincing intensity. Diamond Ace made the right decision, in my view, to allow her voice to be the dominant element in the track because it significantly adds to its depth and meaning.
Another part of the Future Love album that I found enjoyable was the way that Diamond Ace used dynamics. This is not an album in which the music stays at one flat volume. It rises and falls, emphasizing moments and keeping the listener’s attention as it leaps to a crescendo and then drops away before rising again. Sometimes I feel that modern music doesn’t exploit musical dynamics as much as it should and I appreciate Diamond Ace taking the time to get that element right on the album.
Now we get to my favourite part! I’m going to run through those tracks which I felt were the strongest on the album. I’ll talk about the musical elements that I enjoyed along with the emotional or imaginative content and how it affected me.
“Antarkid” is one of those tracks that is defined by the electric guitar playing on it. The guitar here is singing and rich, crying out in a stream of energetic notes, soaring above the track underneath. There is something inspiring and life-affirming in the vibe of this solo which has moments that are rocking and bluesy. Underneath, the bass and drums interlock with the synth sounds that form the first melodic line we hear. As the track moves on, the volume’s dynamic adjustments add life to the sound.
“Future Love” is perhaps the strongest track on the album for me, on the strength of SUNESIS’ vocal work. She takes the yearning, nostalgic lyrics and uses her strong voice to give those emotional elements full expression. This is a lament that, “times like these won’t ever come back” and SUNESIS expresses the loneliness and aching that permeate this track. Under her voice, cut glass synths chime and flutter, adding more emotion but this is definitely SUNESIS’ party. Again there’s that expressive, soloing guitar that arcs and flies over the steady drum and bass heartbeat. I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this track.
There are elements in “Pyramids” that just scream 16-bit Japanese space shooter game to me and I mean that as a compliment. Rapidly pulsing arps and the sound of takeoff throw us into a high energy beat, scudding along easily as an airy sweep of sound moves through as the synths initiate a launch sequence. The melody whirls and jumps, feeling so re-energizing, even the beat makes me think of video game music in the way it delivers a great melody with a whole lot of energy.
“Future Signs” is a showcase for Retroglyphs and his soloistic, exuberant guitar playing that adds a real sense of presence to the track. This is a track that has an expansive airiness around its synthwave beat and light, wandering synth melody but it really gains vitality when the guitar comes in and adds its character to the track.
I think that this Diamond Ace album succeeds because it embodies his stated goal of expressing the themes of “love, darkness, and finding the light.” The contrasts and synergies of musical concepts explore that wide ranging territory in an enjoyable and musically interesting way on Future Love.