Elitarian review of Shock! Horror!

Published: 07/10/2010

I have to say right up front that the rating I assigned to this release has very much to do with the fact that Shock! Horror! is a single release, totalling less than sixteen minutes, thus there’s not a large amount of material on offer here to be analyzed. Out of the four tracks present, the first one – the title track – is a song taken from Synoiz’s debut Ambients, the second one is a previously unreleased track, whilst the last two are alternative versions of the first song, and, after hearing some Ambients’ samples on his webpage, I have to say that Shock! Horror! is a bit of a misleading presentation for a person who, like me, is new to the work of this man.

Synoiz is the name given to the solo project of Sunderland ‘undiscovered mass murderer’ Graeme Donaldson, centred around his insubordinate Dark Ambient manipulations inspired by game soundtrack composers, nuclear catastrophes and… Lady GaGa. As one might guess, Donaldson is not your average by-the-numbers kind of Artist, and as far as I could hear, this showed with enough clarity from the almost schizophrenic eclecticism found on Ambients, where breathy and ethereal tunes were thrown in the same cauldron together with synth-pop regurgitations and dark nightmarish shades; probably too many musical nuances on display to be represented and embodied by a single track. And that leads us to Shock! Horror!, one of Donaldson’ s latest crimes – to be precise, this 4-track digital single represents his way of celebrating Ambients’ first anniversary, which he does by extrapolating the homonymous track from the album and releasing it separately with a previously unreleased song, a John Carpenter-inspired Sinister Mix and an Acoustic Edit.

In the press release, the song Shock! Horror! is likened  to a ‘wall of shrieking synths and anguished wails and sobs’, and, as far as creative descriptions go, this one comes across as quite eloquent. The loss of innocence and the various events that can force us to make the decisive leap into adulthood form the backdrop for Donaldson’s work on this track, and he uses caustic and morbid multilayered Ambient noise to convey the sense of estrangement and despair this stage of life brings forth, and most of all the harshness of the real world. Although I can somehow grasp the symbolic intent behind this initiative, I think that the decontextualization could affect negatively the process of decoding the song, which is, after all, part of a wider concept explored in Ambients, that deals with the general transition from the innocence of childhood to the bitterness and disillusion of maturity. Moreover, it doesn’t either do justice to Donaldson’s unhealthy sense of creativity. Probably this single release is mostly meant as an expedient to ensnare as many innocent victims as possible into the instable world of Synoiz, in this case I’d strongly recommend them to approach this as a teaser to what Ambients has to offer, because it doesn’t completely illustrate the quirky and pleasantly unconventional nature of Donaldson’s work.

With this being said, I think that Synoiz definitely has the potential to become a  force to be reckoned with in the underground meanders of the Ambient realm if Donaldson will be capable to play his cards right and possibly provide us with even deeper insights in the psychologically instable side of his mind.