Ambients is the debut album from Synoiz. It clocks in at around 53 minutes and if any comparison had to be made the closest would have to be with Silent Hill and the work of Akira Yamaoka.
The first track is a short and lovely dreamy-like opening. It puts you in the right frame of mind for the whole album and yet there’s an underlying malice hiding under the veneer…
Of Rolling Hills
This is a stand-out track and one that hammers home the album’s intentions. The menacing bass line is much more concerned with delivering a constant threat rather than the groove-laden dance thrust we hear so much in music today. This song, for me, is all about light and dark – the top end of the EQ is filled with lovely wind instruments and harps but the lower end is filled with diseased synths and rusted gongs. A beautiful arrangement that is one of the albums many highlights.
The Open Sky
It starts with a combination of sounds that congeal into something rhythmic and out of nowhere the song forms. The Open Sky, like much of Synoiz’s work, is all based on repetition. Sure, layers drop out and come back, but you feel that same beat propels the song forward while different parts dance around it.
The shock of the clearly-sampled choir vocals gets me every time here. I like how even when the songs contain real world sounds rather than synthetic ones the real sounds have been corrupted to give that sense of digitalism. I read that as a statement on how in a world filled with Heat magazine, Photoshop and unending marketing campaigns there doesn’t appear to be anything real left in it. DiFontaine is a real creeper of a track and I’m especially fond of the end where the squeal of synth feedback howls over the lovely choral/string parts.
Released already on a special EP for fans only this is another stand-out track. There really is too much to listen to here. Whole combinations of synths and swirls of electronica give this track a lot lighter feel than some of the previous darker material. Coming in at only 2.43 the only critiscm would be that it should be a lot longer! Saying that, the album ends with a bonus track that is a fantastic five-minute remix!
When that piano refrain comes in on top of all that dirty synth you know you’re listening to something major! This is the album highlight and unsurprisingly the second single to be taken from Ambients. I love this track so much I’ve created my own remix of this track which is available on the Andromeda EP and also to stream for free at www.ghostsmut.co.uk.
Compared to the track it follows you’d be forgiven for just letting Cooper slide by. It is the most subtle track on Ambients and has a certain air of Twin Peaks about it. My favourite part is when the organ turns up on it at about 1:30. It’s slightly louder than everything else and therefore really draws your attention to it. In a song as subtle as Cooper it’s a welcome addition to the soundscape.
You can hear the album moving into darker territory now. Gone are the light harps, pianos and twinkling glockenspiels – everything is threatening now. When the fuzzy drums kick in it’s probably the closest we get to industrial music and even when a piano does enter the fray it’s there for juxtaposition. There is no hope to be found here – just the strangled choke of all joy dying.
The first single to be taken from Ambients and it follows on in the same vein as Ever Emptiness. Not sure why you’d release it as a single though however good it is. I can’t really imagine it alongside Cheryl Cole or Beyoncé in the charts! Again, it’s built up from a slow constant beat which only stops to introduce other unintelligible sounds and then bury them as quickly as they’re revealed. The songs intentions are really brought to the foreground when witnessed alongside the video which is available at the Synoz website or youtube.
A real divider this one. Straight from the off you know the last two or three tracks have been building the album up for this song alone – Shrieking synths and wails of despair, no real melody or distinguishing moments. Some people will hate this track and others will wish there was more of this on the album! I think a whole album of this would be too much and I must confess to there being times where I skip it – especially when I’m walking home late at night! – but as part of the album I think it’s a necessary track.
Starting with a slow pulsing bass section you may be forgiven for thinking the worst is over. At about 1.50 you don’t think that anymore! Back come in the horrifically harsh pneumatic drill-like drums alongside some lovely choral parts that should not work together but do for some reason! It’s all worth it though for after about a minute of that the song collapses and like the birth of a new day the most wonderful string arrangement blooms. It’s the only light we’ve had since Getting Safer four tracks back. But, of course, it can’t last and soon the menace floods back in and mayhem rightly ensues.
Every time this song starts I recognise the patch Dying Planets from my own Korg: Micro X. Love it! Anyway, the song again is reminiscent of earlier parts of the album and is mostly driven by a low and ominous piano. We’re heading towards the end of the album so this track really serves to bring about a sense of dread and closure.
It begins in such a way that you expect it to continue like Moonlit Streets but instead, out of nowhere, a thumping beat comes in and we’re in uncharted waters. Even Ever Emptiness didn’t go as flat-out as this but all too soon it’s over. A calmness comes over proceedings but, of course, we were just in the eye of the storm and we’re thrown straight back under the unforgiving beat.
Darkling marks the end of Ambients and although there is a fantastic remix of Andromeda by Anguaji I can’t really include that in the review. It is very, very good though!
In summary let me just say that Ambients is a great album. Yes, for some who want lyrics on all their songs they are sure to find it underwhelming but this is not an album for people who buy Now compilations. Fans of Akira Yamaoka or darkwave/industrial/goth will be sure to find much to enjoy from it and maybe come to adore it in the same way I do.