Synthwave Album Review: Signal Void, "This Liminal Reality"
Signal Void’s This Liminal Reality album makes you feel like you're on a journey. The mental landscapes through which we are pulled are varied, but common threads are also discernable. Those common threads lend a sense of continuity to the tracks on the album, despite the ways in which those tracks reflect on different emotional states and moments of tension and release that play out over the length of This Liminal Reality.
One thing that struck me about This Liminal Reality was the vastness of the sound. Signal Void seems to have worked hard to create an album in which all of the many layers of sound move within a larger space, one that gives the impression of having no real boundaries. That sense of openness served to emphasize the extended nature of the synth passages that swept through many of the tracks.
Rhythm also appears to have been something that Signal Void wanted to emphasize on This Liminal Reality. The drum sounds are very full and deep, really thudding into the chest to add to the sensation of propulsion created by the drums. Even the tracks that have a slow tempo still have a forceful feeling because of the hard hitting nature of the drums.
Another musical quality shared by all of the tracks on the album is bass that seems to well up from some Stygian place. It has rumble and heft, throbbing along underneath everything to buoy it up. This Liminal Reality has a very layered sound to it and none of it would work as well if it didn’t have that bass to carry all of those other elements and give them the support that they needed.
The overarching feeling that I got from the album was one of contrasting emotions and images. There are beautifully delicate passages of shimmering synth, moments of triumph and also darker, heavier sensations that move through, shading the tracks with something more foreboding. These sensations sometimes take place in the same track and to me they do speak to the idea of liminality, of something that exists between states and can easily touch on one or the other, moving between those different states.
This Liminal Reality is a case where layered sounds really do contribute to the overall feeling of the album. Signal Void is superb at carefully interlacing a broad palette of sounds that together form a cohesive whole. There are many different synth sounds that each contribute, like instruments in an orchestra along with the percussion and bass, to a rather complex end result. The production values are such that each of these parts remains discernable, but they also combine smoothly.
Now I’m going to explore the tracks with which I had the most affinity on the album and discuss the elements that most drew me towards those particular tracks.
“Ultraviolet” is a track that had a strong sense of drama for me. It projected a series of different emotional states and shifted interestingly between them. The track is full of pumping synthwave drums and throaty bass pulsations. The melody of the track has a tense feeling to it as it moves over the deep supporting sounds. I also enjoyed the extended synth sounds that swept through the wide open landscape of this track when there was a break in the action. There is a constant layering of sound that gives everything complexity as all the various elements interlock to produce a strong, full sounding track.
Winds of synth wash into “Gaia” as it begins followed by a beat that has a solid thunder to it. The main melody starts out aetheric and delicate over the heaviness that moves below it. I enjoyed the way in which the melody grew to fill the space, echoing slightly as it slides through the track. I also found that this melody had a wistful quality to it. This is a track that combines weight and light in an intriguing way.
The predominant sensation that I got from “Ambedo” was one of smoothness. It opens with floating synth lines that intertwine and admix as they drift through vast spaces. The synths are silky as they drive the track and then we get a high, almost trumpeting synth playing a free roaming melody. Those high notes focus the attention on that melodic line over the smoothness of the track. In the middle, a soothing break full of shining synth comes in, there is a feeling of sweeping along borne on this light before the beat leaps in along with blocks of synth that have a pulse to them that matches the beat. I felt a sense of light radiating out to fill this track.
“Mantra” is a powerful track that begins with a hit of slamming drums and rumbling bassline. The beat hammers the track forward strongly and the airy synths that fly over top are a distinct contrast to that weight and power beating underneath them. The synths have an angelic quality to them. We sweep into a break section with chiming synths that float but the synth pattern reasserts itself, the same throb and tremble moving underneath it. I enjoyed the strong contrasts in this track.
Signal Void has created a complex, cohesive album in This Liminal Reality. The combination of layered synths, powerful beats and clear imagery created by the music makes it a compelling journey through space and across time.