Synthwave Album Review: "Out of Traumaville" by Connör - Spinditty - Music
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Synthwave Album Review: "Out of Traumaville" by Connör

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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

Connör’s latest album “Out of Traumaville” tells the story of the glistening city of Holywoöd and the outer wasteland around it known as Traumaville. It is an atmospheric, synth-driven journey that takes listeners through the darkness and danger of Traumaville and the coming rebellion against Holywoöd’s hubris and excess.

On “Out of Traumaville” Connör combines cinematic synthscapes with lyrics written by Tom Newman, Matt Sky, Jamie Wiltshire and doctormelodious that unfold the tale of the city and the wasteland outside of it. Those lyrics are delivered well by the guest vocalists Jamie Wiltshire, KC Burke, Sam Blanchard, Winona Drive and doctormelodious who all bring their unique sounds to the music. I enjoy how they each add nuanced layers of meaning to the words through the different tones and timbres they use in performance.

I also have to mention Hugo Lee’s superb sax work on “Fire In Me” because it truly sets the tone for that song and adds more depth with the rich, reedy tone of the sax and the deeply expressive abilities of that instrument. Some retro synth music might add the sax for sheer nostalgia’s sake but here it really works to add strength to the end result.

Connör creates a soundscape on “Out of Traumaville” that includes washes of dark bass, moments of growling weight with rough-edged synths snarling over hard-charging drums as well as drifts and sparkles of higher synths occasionally shining through. While this music is on the atmospheric side, there are also melodies that can sing or ache with expression.

I am drawn toward the cinematic nature of the “Out of Traumaville” as it takes listeners through the story arc that it lays out. I like the cohesive nature of the songs and the way they tell the twisty tale of Traumaville. It’s nice to be able to see how songs relate to each other and connect to weave a story together.

My Favorite Tracks Analyzed

"83 ATE" has a sinister quality as soft choral voices that distort and twist move over a rising dark sweep of bass. I enjoy the drama of the slowly churning chimes and the steady pulse of the beat. Jamie Wiltshire’s strong voice adds real power to the track as he delivers the lyrics. I felt a surge of energy as the whole track hardens with relentless drums, deep bass and harsh synths that growl with ferocity. This is dark, heavy stuff that suits the album nicely.

There is more power and darkness in the lyrics of "83 ATE." The tale they tell is a twisty one of suddenly winding up somewhere dangerous. As Jamie Wiltshire sings, “Stand close to me now, It’s funny I’ve no memory. Remembering how to speak now. Where is this place, where can we be?”

Confusion and fear fill the song as the lyrics say, “Where’s our landing? It’s like a darkened dream now” and adds to the darkness in the lines, “Light is so dim here, I can barely see the sun. People I’ve found sit in fear. Someone’s coming, I think we better run.”

There's a terrible disaster in progress which is clear in the lyrics that say, “The year is 83 ATE. We’re on the move” but the narrator hopes that he’ll wake up. He begs his companion, “Remain unseen, stick close to me” and adds, “Our parents left us walking, no time for talking.”

The shadows and tension are thick in “Theme From Traumaville” as long echoes of string-like synths move into open space along with the weight of a pipe organ. I feel that the tense sounding arpeggios playing on chiming synths heighten the feeling of impending danger while the dark bass underneath adds shadows to the music.

I am drawn to the cascading lead synth melody which is both bright and threatening. The beat speeds up and adds hard-rockin' guitar to it that charges along underneath, adding more speed and power to the track along with orchestra hits that further up the feeling of danger.

“The Fire In Me” has a strong contribution from Hugo Lee on sax. The reedy richness of the sax’s sound has a mournful emotive quality to it as it moves behind Winona Drive’s voice that echoes the emotions produced by the sax sound. I like how the drums and bass establish a solid heartbeat for the music. There’s a gentle tragedy in the warm synth washes that touch the music and Hugo Lee adds a deeply expressive and well-played sax solo to further increase the expression on this track.

This is a song that oozes trepidation and apprehension. The words ask, “Who’s gonna stop the fire, once the light is lit? What if it rages is higher and the dark won’t quit?”

The narrator has said goodbye to herself and in a defeated tone adds, “Can’t stop this fight, it’s forever on. So lost inside, dark is the night.” She goes on to say that she has to hide and asks plaintively, “Who puts the puzzle back when the pieces are smashed?”

Her fear continues as she says she is too scared to look when “everything’s black” and worries about what happens “if all hopes have been hushed.” Now she goes on to say that she didn’t think it would turn out as it did “with the edge of the cliff so near.”

There’s a chilling question in the final verse, “Who stops the chaos when our hope is gone and the night becomes us?”

In contrast to some of the songs on this album that are full of despair, “Born to Shine” is a call to fight back and stand up. I find the drum that throbs, stops and throbs again along with the rhythmic clank of chains adds a depth to the track.

Kevin O Hay adds his uplifting vocals to the track, expanding on the theme of rising up and fighting which fills this song. I also enjoy the snarly edge to the densely packed synths as they surge forward. I feel drawn to the whirling synth melody that climbs and shines over the background music.

This song urges the citizens of Traumaville to fight back as the words call out, “They gonna bring the pain. They gonna arrest our souls. We gotta make our claim. We gotta go!”

In a defiant tone, the lyrics go on to say, “We’ve got a place to go, this is our time” and the narrator adds, “I’m like a man out of season, I was born to shine.” He goes on to say that it isn’t cowardly when you “drink in the sun” before the next line, “You can take your own life under the revolution.”

Again the message of fighting is reinforced in the words, “I can’t surrender life like this, drink away the pain” as our narrator says, "I stand alone this time. Don’t tell me where to stand now. I will make it on my own somehow!”

Finally, he says, “I won’t lie down next to this poor lady. I won’t lie down just to make things easy!”

“Out of Traumaville” is a sparkling dark star of sound. I like how the warmth in the music contrasts with the sinister undercurrent of doctormelodious’ vocals. The song feels like a ballad while the organ-like synths add a nice frisson of threat to the music. The throb adds energy to the song. This is music that caresses in an ominous way.

There's a warning in this song as the narrator says, “Find yourself a place to run, my child, for these days are running wild” and adds, “Find yourself a moment of light. Get out of Traumaville tonight."

The lyrics are full of uncertainty as the questions, “Are we safe in our prayer? Are we heading for the light? Will they meet us there?” are all answered with: I don’t know. The narrator issues a warning in the lines, “Stay in your fox hole dear, and you’ll be dead tonight. Hopelessness is found in Mr Right” and urges, “Stick with us instead, out of Traumaville!”

There’s further message about the wrongness of the so-called Mr. Right in the words, “He’s not coming back for you. He was never coming back for you.”

KC Burke’s vocals stand out on “This Is Holywoöd” as they burst with energy and expression. They’re supported by the strongly throbbing beat and by the slightly distorting synth with a harsh edge that moves over it. KC Burke’s voice easily keeps up with the ferocity of the music as it charges along. I enjoy the biting quality of this track's synths as well as the funky little guitar break that adds a nice variation to the track.

The sparkling beauty of Holywoöd hides a rotten heart. This song warns against succumbing to the illusions it creates. The opening lines introduce the illusion that “we all have dreams to pursue, there’s beauty in how we choose” and that “freedoms are never ending.”

The chorus rips away those illusions as it warns “don’t trick yourself about it, your freedoms are on the shelf” and adds, “Oh baby you act up so delighted. You can’t recognize yourself.” The reality is that “this place just needs a matchstick, stop drinking to its health.”

The disconnect between Traumaville and Holywoöd is clear in the lines, “I’ve never seen that place, I know their children’s face. They weep on the TV. They weep in another world.” However, that world has finally had enough, so now the residents of Holywoöd are saying, "Are they attacking while Holywoöd is clapping?”

“Tomorrow” has long washes of synth which create an interesting shadowed feeling under Sam Blanchard’s vocals that brim with aching, deep expression. I like how the bright synths flicker over the vocals while the beat now throbs faster, charging into the music. There’s an intertwining feeling with the singing and synths that I can dig. I also felt that the crescendo of energy in the track gave it a nice boost to propel it forward.

The dark world outside the gates of Holywoöd is threatening to spill over into the city. As the song begins, the city is watching and waiting. Our narrator says, “I’m calling to you in there, can you hear me?” The narrator asks, “Have you heard of that place before? If you knew it, you’d open the door.”

The song calls out those behind the gates and says, “We know the secrets you keep up your sleeve” and asks, “Did you know all the while? Was tomorrow always your style?” The lyrics speak of desperation in lines like, “We are at our end. Send us to hell or send us to heaven my friend. There’s been a war out here for years.”

The narrator asks, “Could you hear us, calling at night? Did you think tomorrow was your time to fight?” before adding, “Come on let them in. Wake up shouting, never to tomorrow, never tomorrow again!”

The final words are haunting as they say, “Come on let them in, don’t give up in suffering. Holywoöd is listening.”

Verdict

“Out of Traumaville” is a multi-layered musical journey that takes listeners through the world of Holywoöd and Traumaville through interlinking synth soundscapes, well-written lyrics and very strong guest vocal performances. I’m a fan of good storytelling through music and I feel that this album delivers on that score.

© 2020 Karl Magi