Synnack is the project of Clint Sand (with additional input from Tony Young and Jeff Ito) who you may remember from such admirable acts-of-yore as Cut.Rate.Box and Mono Chrome. Well to be honest I never heard Mono Chrome, but I was a big fan of CRB. That being said, it’s extremely exciting to see a guy who was doing mainly EBM move onto doing something of the Rhythmic/Ambient/IDM nature.
So, now you are eager to hear how he pulled this off and if it worked out amiably. Ok, let’s find out:
The packaging isn’t the most amazing thing in the world; however, I find it to be fairly fitting. I feel that the generally-light-with-a-touch-of-deep-blue-and-black color scheme and designs reflect the futuristic, yet almost minimal tones, of the album. The white cover will help it to stand out in your collection. Also, I am a fan of digipaks…especially with more than one panel. The artwork and inner text isn’t hugely revolutionary, but the one vital component of the packaging which is very attractive is that there is a little slip of paper that says something to the extent of “thanks for buying this cd, here is a special code” (the wording is of course more interesting, but I’ll leave it to you to figure out what else it says); and with that code one can go to the Synnack website and download a bunch of free stuff and get discounts on merch and so forth. In my opinion, that is a very fucking worthwhile reason to pick up a CD.
Heavily rhythmic while utilizing minimalist cold mechanical atmospheres. The intro does nothing for me as it just sounds like some overly distorted mess. The fun kicks in immediately with track two. As a whole, V2 reminds me of old Autechre (Incunabula-era), and also some other old IDM stuff like Jega. That is very good because those are some of my favorite albums. Like Incunabula, the rhythmic songs on V2 sound like something that a computer would build. The tracks rely heavily on a main steady beat that works the listening into a kind of hypnosis, while the real magic is in all of the subtle changes weaving around that central beat. The primary focus of this album is on the rhythmic elements; in addition to a bunch of different drum hits going on at any one time there are also numerous clicks and beeps flying around seemingly sporadically (although I can bet that these are actually very meticulously placed). It’s like if s:cage was a robot. The great thing about V2 is that even though it is so rhythmic, Synnack crafts some truly inspiring and visionary atmospheres. I don’t think I have ever heard such genuine mechanical soundscapes. I am having trouble typing this review while listening to the album because all my brain sees is perfect, blank, white walls and machines endlessly laboring to produce and create. These atmospheres are primarily created through minimal pads woven between the rhythmic ever-pounding pistons, but by god do they work fantastically. Very stark and cold. Once again the only word that can do this album justice is ‘mechanical’. It’s like an efficient computer dreamland, but one that is dark and cold, not a happy bouncy Gameboy’s dream. A great aspect of this album is the movement into different territory with different tracks. There are some atmospheric rhythmic tracks, there are some heavily ambient songs, and there are some harder rhythmic tracks. Each style is done incredibly well and each has a very ‘Synnack’ sound to it.
One thing I will mention that I am a bit sad about is the lack of melody. I had the opportunity to see Synnack live, and they incorporated some really catchy melodies into some of the tracks they played. Unfortunately, there is very, very little melody to be found on V2. While these songs are very well crafted, I would’ve liked to hear additional synthetic melodies.
The production on V2 is pretty damn good. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by Sand so that should say something for his talent. In terms of levels and sound quality this album is spot on. Once again I bring up the similarity to the now ancient Autechre – Incunabula; Synnack knows how to stack layer after layer while keeping them all tangible and occupying their own space in the mix. Even if there are 10 things going on at once, there are no muddled frequencies, no sounds are lost and everything is kept in harmonious balance. My only criticism is that some of the melodic elements sound a little out of place within the context of some of the other sounds.
Artistic Merit: 7/10
While ‘V2’ is a very interesting and fairly niche album, upon listening I immediately found myself drawing comparisons to other artists (autechre, jega, s: cage). This is not bad of course since these are some of the greatest artists on the planet; however, it means that this is not the most unique album ever created. Of course, this is the Synnack debut so it’s hardly reasonable to expect them to have a 100% defined unique sound. It is a very interesting direction though, and I think that given Synnack’s immense talent, he/they will be able to forge a completely unique and new sound on future albums. Although, I should give him a 10/10 for making this album after coming from an EBM background.
I will have to break this up into types of ‘flow’. The flow within each track is done very well. Especially in the more ambient songs like ‘Her Room’, there is a very meticulous ebb and flow; a steady build from the cold void of a massively advanced server room up through layers of machine code until the resounding climax of berserk machines pounding away on the assembly line. The tracks rise and fall in very subtle waves, perfect for this style of ambient/idm. The more rhythmic tracks are, once again, similar to old Autechre in that there is one steady beat which becomes trance-inducing while all around it are the ever changing pop, clicks and beeps of thinking machinery. So it both changes and does not change. This juxtaposition of constant movement and stasis create a strange ‘flow’ within the track that is very…robotic.
However, the flow between songs isn’t done so well. It’s not bad by any means, but my real qualm is that there are quasi-long gaps of silence and occasionally overly long fade outs of tracks which can be a bit annoying if you’re not there to hit ‘next’ and get back to the action. Some of the rhythmic tracks kick in too soon after a big fade out which can be a bit annoying also. Other than that the album carries a common ambiance throughout, and all the tracks work at building on that atmosphere. There is a good blend of styles portrayed, but the overall sound of the songs is similar enough to warrant saying the album has a “synnack sound” (which is a good thing in my opinion).
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Overall, this is an excellent and intelligent rhythmic album that will please all the people like me out there who yearn for intelligent heavily rhythmic music that is willing to break boundaries and incorporate elements of other genres; in this case ambient and IDM. If you are a fan of older Autechre or S-Cage or later Gridlock, but wish it sounded MORE mechanical, than definitely check this out. Anyone who claims to enjoy technology, robots, or a future where robots rule and humans have been phased out should do themselves a favor and buy this album.
While this is a pretty stunning album, I don’t feel that Synnack has reached their full potential and I am very much looking forward to future releases from them.