Synthwave Album Review: Efilheim, Framework
French electronic music producers have always been innovative and interested in exploring different facets of electronic sounds, taking things in fascinating directions. Efilheim continues in that tradition with Framework, pushing synthwave into new and interesting territory. It definitely wouldn’t be mistaken for anything cookie cutter or play by numbers.
At the heart of Framework are well-written, engaging melodies. They can be gentle or full of energy, but they are always ear-pleasing and satisfying. It’s no coincidence that Efilheim has taken influence from 16-bit era Japanese video game music because his work definitely has similar qualities in terms of the beauty of his melodic language.
The elements that set Framework apart from generic synthwave are Efilheim’s use of complex, interweaving themes as well as unique choices for synths, percussion and instrument sounds. There’s also another element that I have to talk about which is the incredibly funky slap bass that he uses in some of the tracks. It’s not a common sound for synthwave, but it adds a unique quality to the tracks in which he employs it. Sometimes a little funk is necessary to add flavour to the proceedings.
Efilheim's tracks often start out sparsely but very quickly add more layers of sound. He manages to achieve a real richness and depth in his music because there are so many sonic ideas to explore within each track of the album. It isn’t busy or overdone, rather it just keeps the listener's brain and ears engaged.
I maintain my contention that synthwave producers are some of the most skilled in the world of electronic music. Efilheim is no exception to this. Everything on this album is well-balanced. The mix is nicely judged and the sound is crisp and clear, there’s nothing muddy or indistinct about it.
In my usual fashion, I’m going to discuss the tracks that I found most enjoyable on the album and talk a bit about why they appealed so strongly to me.
The first track that really grabbed me was Wasteland. I really dug the strong bass support and the beat that throbs underneath it. The synth melody that starts things off was pretty catchy and things got really fun once the guitar came in and the whole track began to flow forward. The guitar has a nice soaring tone with just enough bite and the melody it plays is open and warm. The whole track does produce an image of a lone ‘biker riding across the open spaces of a desert.
The funky bass on Coherer is such a great addition to the track. I love the sound that it creates here. The mixture of wheeling, spinning synths over the percussive backing track really hits home and I enjoy the deep, powerful tones of the guitar here. The instrument switching between different synths is really interesting and Efilheim’s melodic gift is on clear display.
Procedural Romance is probably my favourite track of the album. It starts with that feeling of vast expanses that only synths can generate. As a slower tempo beat kicks in, so does a truly warm and delicate melody which brings to mind the melodic beauty of Japanese RPG soundtracks. All of the elements of the song combine to create a warm sonic tapestry.
I also have to mention See You, Space Cowboy. It has a super infectious groove and feels kind of funky to me overall. That groove is undeniable. Although the melody here is less prominent, it still draws the ear but it really is that groovy nature that I found hard to quit listening to.
All of the tracks on Framework were enjoyable. There’s nothing that I’d single out that would stop me from listening to the album. Efilheim has managed to create music that’s fun, innovative and even pretty funky in places. As someone who feels that the best way for musical genres to stay vibrant is to constantly be exploring different sounds and musical expressions this album was great to hear. It really has a distinctive vibe and explores some fascinating aural territory that I really appreciated Efilheim sharing with us synth-fans.