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Synthwave EP Review: "Echos" by Von Kaiser

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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

Von Kaiser’s Echos EP combines powerful vocals and lyrics, sparkling synths and a general feeling of emotional potency that permeates the sensations and imagery on the recording. I find the songs on this EP touching and moving, the musical elements serving to heighten that feeling, allowing it to shine through.

Jake, Kaylin and David are the three band members and they all contribute to the strength of this album. Their collective ability to create expressive music really brings this EP to life. I especially want to comment on David's singing. His voice is strong, expressive and emotive and he can caress or belt it out as needed. His singing really animates the depth of feeling on the album.

Echos has foregrounded the lyrical and vocal aspects of the music, but Von Kaiser are keenly aware of the other elements that contribute to the overall feeling of the EP. There is glow and shine from the synths, moments of melancholy that tinge the lead solos and David’s guitar solo on “Echos of the Sun” adds more depth to the track. Underneath it all there’s a steady heartbeat of drums and bass that moves the songs onward.

Track by Track Analysis

“Echos of the Sun” is full of warm waves of soft synth sound that add to the hopeful feeling of this song. I enjoy the deep solid bass and driving drums that pulse underneath those warm washes of sound. David’s vocals are strong and expressive as they deliver an uplifting vocal melody and in the latter half of the track, there’s a wheeling, turning guitar solo by David that imbues the music with more energy still.

There’s a sense of hopeful freedom in the lyrics of this song. The idea of just driving and escaping is strongly conveyed in the lines, “In a world without traffic lights, feel the engine spring to life, destinations are irrelevant, a night drive into the sun.”

The sense of freedom is reinforced by the image of “rushing wind across your face, painted toes on dashboard windows” that just conjures up a nostalgic sense of flying down the highway.

I also like the imagery of dancing through the night in the lines, “Lose yourself in drums and bass, focused on neon euphoria.”

I find myself drawn to the steady heartbeat of percussion that moves underneath “Echos of Us.” There are clusters of notes played on a keyboard-like synth as Jake’s soaring, emotive vocals move over interlocked bass and drums. This track has an airy and slightly ethereal feeling to it that I enjoy along with shining moments of synth that flash in as drifts of melodic notes float out.

A message of escape and reinvention flows through the words of this song. The ache for a change comes through in the lines “ ‘We can just leave,’ she said, almost so quiet, it was just a breath, ‘We could just move away to some island or a city far away,’ “

I like the idea of getting “new faces for different places” in the lyrics. It creates a feeling of change and starting afresh. The sense of moving to a whole new realm is made clear in the words, “Flying high as we make our escape, Trans-Atlantic conquerers of fate.”

The feeling of being alone together is most clearly expressed in the lines, “The places that, wherever we are, however far, as long as we’re together there” and reinforced by the idea that all that matters is being “alone in love.”

Change always comes with some loss but as the words say, “Whatever we lost, we gained in warm sunshine almost every day, I swear, we’ll never go back to where, to wherever it all began.”

“Echoes In the Sky” opens on a warm, slightly melancholy and wandering medium high synth melody that fits the yearning in this song. There’s a steady throb of drums and other synths that move in, chiming and delicate, while the vocals swell and flow through the track. The track is full of aching melancholy. Everything glows and glides here as a feeling of loss permeates the lyrics.

I’m drawn to the powerful sense of disconnection and the yearning for something better in this song. The idea of a young adult trying to find their way comes through in lines like, “A lost year forgotten and a drunk spring break, a summer job I gotta take, Mom and Dad say I need to learn to pull my weight, I’m sure I’m gonna hate it.”

There’s a feeling that this shouldn’t be all there is in the lyrics, “Hopefully I’m distracted enough to fake it, I’m gonna show everyone, I’ll be famous one day or I’m just another one…”

A yearning to break free, a sense of being discouraged and a fear of aimless drift are all reflected in the chorus, “Ocean in the sky, and I want to fly, I’ll just float away if I never try, I’ll see the bluest ocean in the sky, they keep saying if I jump that I’m gonna die.”

There’s a powerful sense of not fitting in the lines, “I can’t seem to remember where I lost my way, a summer job I gotta take, everyone but me seems to know their place” which is again contrasted with hope and a fear of being trapped in the lines, “I’m sure I’m gonna touch the sky, They can’t hold me back forever even though they’ll try, I swear to god I can’t escape."

There are waves of gently reverberating synth sounds that flow through “Echos of 1984” that I felt made a nice contrast with the driving beat throbbing out as the lead synth solo flies out over the music. There’s depth and a smooth glide to the music as it oscillates and pulses while Jake’s vocals caress, but also have power underneath that caress.

This is a song that has an ache for the way things were and hope for the future in equal measures. It starts out asking, “Did the world end when I was asleep? Did you wake up all alone somewhere strange?” The narrator is adds, “we’ve got stars in our eyes and plans we never got to make.”

The chorus asks whether or not things can ever be the way they were in the lines, “Can it ever be the way it was? Can we ever find common trust among us? Can we ever take back control of the world we used to know for all of us?”

In the next verse, the lines are inverted from the previous one and now instead of a yearning for plans that were never made, the final line is “got stars in our eyes and chances to break our plans again.”

There is more emotional depth in “Echos In Space” that comes from the slow arps that wheel like galaxies into the music, David’s singing which is impassioned and full of emotion and the chiming quality of the lead synth. This is a song with a sense of pining for something gone by.

For me, this was the most touching song of the EP. The lyrics that say, “Like the orbit of the moon, like the tides that pull us through, when I see the world from a light year’s sun, across the sands of time, I miss the feel of your touch” perfectly capture the deep wish for a lost love to return.

The intensity and pain that pour out of the lines, “I’ve never seen eyes like those, burning like the sun on Mars, so terrible, and beautiful, and so far away I’ve never breathed the outside air” hit me hard and that feeling was reinforced by the pain of the lines, “I’m always on the outside looking in, I’m just an outsider looking in.”

No matter how much time has passed and that the narrator has seen “the world; the universe” the only thing that matters is that, “ it’s always just you taking up space inside my mind.”

Verdict

Echos has emotional depth, musical flow and a general sense of expressiveness that I find quite compelling. It makes me want another full album from Von Kaiser that plays on these strengths and takes them even further.

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