Synthwave Album Review: "Teenage Daydream," Net Terminal Gene
All of the hopeful, excited and idealistic feelings of being a teenager were captured in Net Terminal Gene’s Teenage Daydream album for me. The title is apt because the sound of the album reflects the sense of potential, hope, wonder and discovery that it expresses. This was an album full of energetic beats, but also moments of brightness and flight. I felt uplifted and hopeful when listening to the album. This is definitely an album tinged with unironic, warm nostalgia.
Teenage Daydream is suffused with a sense of wonder. The effect is acheived by a combination of lambent synths, floating soundscapes and subtle drums and bass that underpin them. The feeling of being carried through a dreamscape is clear and powerful and contributes to the relaxing effect of the album.
For me, this was an album that combines a strong sense of nostalgia with intense mental imagery, painting sound pictures that clearly delineate an emotion or scene. Each track functioned as a small film clip telling part of a story. One of the strongest examples of this was “Sunset Point.” It combines an uplifting melody and a cocoon of warm sounds that surround it with a mental image of an orange sun sinking into a pink sky. The image was immediate and intense and stuck with me.
The variety of synth tones on this album was also something that I could sink my teeth into. Whether they were sweeping, crystalline or deeper and crunchier, each sound added a unique timbre to the whole experience. I enjoyed how Net Terminal Gene deployed each sound to paint a specific part of the image and evoke the right emotional tenor at the right moment on Teenage Daydream.
I liked the balance of tracks on the album. There were good high energy tracks like "Kids on Bikes" that gave the sensation of youthful excitement, ethereal moments like the ones on "Stardrift" or the slightly more dark tracks like “Transmission.” Teenage Daydream kept me engaged because my ears were always looking for something new and finding it from track to track.
Of all of the tracks on the album, there were some that truly captured me. The first one that I found very appealing was “Kids on Bikes.” It has an energetic feeling with a sunny feeling about it. There’s a sense of forward motion as the synths each add a layer to the track. When we get the melody, it’s on a high synth that sings out over the beat. I get a real sense of possibility and exploration from this track. It does suggest kids on bikes, exploring the world.
“Rola Robot” has a certain bouncing quality to it as notes dance around a bass that oscillates between higher and lower tones. The drums have a solid pulse in time with the bass and the melody that appears has a slightly minor quality to it. The whole track feels spacious and hints at slightly darker things below the surface.
The whole of “Neon Heart” does indeed have a pulse as the bass, drums and other rhythm elements weave in and out of the rising, falling synth patterns that repeat hypnotically like a heartbeat. There are so many layers of sound built up in the track that it has a rather rich quality despite the way it repeats themes. There’s nothing dull in its repetition, just entrancing.
The track that probably made the strongest impact on me was “Stardrift.” It is full of light and air with a solid bass and drum underpinning to hold it up. The melody is played on a high, yearning synth that flies over the pulsing bass and drums. This track gave me a feeling of being swept through the stars on a tide of bright light, carried and cradled by it. I found myself with a clearer mind and a sense of comfort at the end of this track.
Teenage Daydream is one of those albums that allows me to just let the story it tells in sound carry me away. I find that it has a warm nostalgia to it, rather than anything ironic. It left me feeling hopeful, remembering what it was like to be young and have the whole world spread out in front of me full of possibility, a little bit of excited fear and a whole lot of idealism. When the world gets you down, it’s nice to have a sonic place like this album to go and visit.