Album Review: Inexedra - Retrohack

From Night City to Outer Space! Inexedra pulls us down a Rubik rabbit-hole to discover what cyberpunk and synthwave can achieve together....

August 01, 2019

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As I look at this album title, knowing what Inexedra’s potential is, I will no doubt be taken down a Rubik rabbit-hole, chewed up and spat back out with some new understanding of what cyberpunk and synthwave can achieve together!

Having previously enjoyed his 2018 album Lexicon, I wondered if he would bring more of the same balanced retro style, or come up with something new.

A surprise is definitely unveiled and I invite you to follow me through it track-by-track.

01 - Gridlock

The first bars of this song lay out a clear identity for what this journey will be like, at least for me. The sound jacks me into the Matrix, where I recall that Juno Reactor trance sound and industrial influences of the late 90’s and early 2000’s!

Contrary to its name (a form of traffic congestion) the instruments do not feel congested at all, despite being a lot of them! The steady pace and feel of the song take me step-by-step to one of Cyberpunk 2077's underground clubs.

Cyberpunk 2077 video game

The stereophonic field is explored at its fullest with tasty elements coming from everywhere. Despite the dark nature of the beat, the leads use a softer timbre and a happier choice of notes. This gives the track a friendlier tone, like having a cheerful guide with you as you travel through Night City.

At the 4:00 mark all the instruments communicate together nicely. The pad, the reverbed high-frequency lead, together with the arp, form a very thought provoking atmosphere! As the elements of this track fade away, one by one, we are not left disappointed. This is a great start!

02 - Blue Shift

The best part about making music is that you have the ability, through the world of sound, to be sincere and show others who you are. That is what Inexedra is good at, shifting through genre characteristics without thinking about any risks because in truth there are no risks. We live in a world where genre merging is the only way to maybe find something new.

In this song there is indeed a shift from the previous vibe. It starts off with some analogue retro pads after which the swelling high frequency swirls bring us to some kind of future robot-dance, but with synthwave leads and arps.

I can see in this track a cyber version of GTA: Vice City! It’s a really funky, groovy song but the industrial and trance elements are still there as the classic filtered TB 303 sound at around 3:00 confirms. The bass is nice, warm and crunchy. The leads can be heard clearly and the pads are very breezy. Is this a Cyber-Miami-Night-City-Breeze drive?

03 - Retrohack

So from that breezy drive we crash land straight into the party! That’s right we’ve reached the title track, so let’s see what we got here.

We have some solid mixing skills that’s for sure! And a return to that trancy vibe which I guess is the signature for this album.

The first half of this track is a mind stimulating mix of very well defined bass paired with some very adventurous, yet complimentary mid range elements, topped with playful high-frequency leads and arps.

At about 3:00 is the mark where the track really starts to shine! In sweeps the heavy sound of a distorted electric guitar as we verge on l33t hacker mode! With an energetic pumping beat and this classic guitar riff you can’t fail! The guitar is not out of place at all, it’s actually mixed very well and for me becomes the soul of the Retro Hack!

From Kung Fury " Hackerman "

Later on this riff is chopped into pieces, but don’t worry, it’s done so with interesting psy-trance style and charisma. The stereo arp is bouncing from left to right this entire time, contributing to the wideness of the track, while we have a main centre body of bass, guitar distortion and a pulsating lead. Overall the track has a Mad Max: Fury Road feel but in a cyber landscape pumped on acid... Don’t do drugs kids! (Just listen to Inexedra)

04 - Absolution

Entry number four starts with a hybrid alien lead that is instantly captivating. When the beat materialises I get thrown back to the early 2000’s with an ATB - 9PM style beat! The leads and pads complimenting the atmosphere, are again very playful in nature and contribute to the nostalgic nature of the track. At 1:30 the track fully kicks in, with a powerful bass and a nice shift to a different snar. It’s like the autobot has fully transformed!

Transformers: Last Knight Movie

But it’s not over yet! The damn thing is stubborn and wants to keep transforming! So another surprise is unveiled at 2:45. A new bass-focused progression, similar to some of Caspro’s work, and a mysterious pad, reminds me of some darksynth material!

My darksynth suspicions are confirmed at 5:07 with that Carpenter bass, but it’s also layered with a stack of very juicy pads and melodies! The choice of ending for this track is a classic fade-out. Personally I think they’re always fun to listen to as they are a dying breed these days. Overall a very fun track and perhaps my favourite so far!

05 - Orion

Are these some sort of layered gated leads? I like when an artist gets me to wonder about how they made something. I can also maybe hear some down-sampling distortion somewhere there. I find myself bobbing my head to the pulsating kick and the track hasn’t even started yet! After some more carefully placed effects the acceleration begins. We’re cruising on our space ship to Orion with a nice classic retro italo disco beat and surrounded by very pleasing arps and leads!

To reach Orion we have to travel far away so we probably need a starburst! At 2:02 the starburst process begins and we are surfing through the quantum waves of a heavy bass-line and a more well defined beat. At 3:12 Inexedra brings forth some classic synthwave elements, with the 16th bass notes, breezy pads and a sunset atmosphere! But then we hear a siren that announces the final push!

At 4:10 some ice crystal bells arrive that are very pleasant to hear but later they reach a more impressive final form! Combined with the rest of the instruments and the inevitable apparition of the TB 303 sound the peak of the track is achieved and at around 5:00. Our landing is announced in a very nice way, ending the track with a nice pulse that has beautiful resonant elements.

06 - Ratface

Ratface is ready to fill up all energy needs, a powerful explosion of bass and distortion hits your face, directly! Once again the crisp sounding arps and leads arrive to surround the main body of power.

The track mysteriously fades away at 2:15, eventually leaving us in complete silence. Is Inexedra playing with our perception or something? I can clearly see that there’s still half the song left, you can’t fool me! I already know you’re going to bring up an outstanding drop and say "HA! Got you!" but perhaps it will work in a live event scenario.

So, the build up is satisfying but the drop doesn’t come right away, we actually have more of a melodic section, after which we are brought back down, and then a final build up leads us to the delayed gratification that is a punchy drop.

I get some really hacky feels once again at about 4:10 and the vibe stays the same until the end of the track, again utilising a fade-out. What I want to know is who is the “Ratface”? This entire time I just want to say “No u!”

07 - The Cleaner

This one starts off with a very dense sound, different particles meld together slowly to deliver a creepy atmosphere.

When the first bass drop starts I can already see Keanu Reeves riding on his motorcycle in a scene from Cyberpunk 2077. The track develops in a very suitable manner to fit a dark and gritty world. I think all the distortion techniques known to man are being used in this track.

When you least expect it, at around 3:20 the overall vibe is changed with some very melodic chimes, bells and a retro beat. The progression is completely different now and we have another more nostalgic tune being unveiled.

However after a few minutes it gets filtered away and we return to the gritty business! The distorted leads are the main focus of this new section. Together with the heavy bass they give the track a very fulfilling dose of energy! As the track ends I think to myself what an interesting arrangement choice. Good job!

08 - Watchers

After all those drops maybe it’s time to relax a bit with a more atmospheric oriented track. The BPM is brought down in this one, and we are treated to some X-Files vibes, telling a story with great patience. The leads are gated, delayed , panned and most importantly reverbed!

At 2:08 the traditional 16th bass appears and gives the entire musical landscape some power! The focus of this track is to give you a credible atmosphere, of something other worldly perhaps, of your body being studied with unorthodox methods by The Watchers?

Watcher Comics


Nah, I’m just kidding, the song is not that dark… but it is mysterious, it kind of feels like a resource extracting atmosphere, that’s right, this track is actually designed to represent engineers, space engineers to be exact!

Space Engineers Video Game

Also it reminds me of a project called Carbon Based Lifeforms, a Swedish ambient band.

09 - Cold As Ice

OK it’s time to go back in energetic lands as Inexedra pulls out his most powerful card! You like Celldweller? good! Get ready for Inexedra though!

When you least expect it, a vocal track makes its way to our ears, and it’s a pleasant surprise because the voice is not only on pitch, (oh wait everyone is on pitch today I forgot), but its timbre is very haunting and well mixed with various effects that are not over the top.

You can hear the natural aspects of the voice when the chorus kicks in which is very cool! I don’t really like it when people completely cover their voice with effects in the hopes that we don’t hear their cringy nature. Inexedra though, he is the opposite of cringe! The voice works perfectly with the track and the lyrics are well done.

The instruments do not disappoint, with a well balanced pumping beat, distorted guitar, swirly, slightly distorted Prodigy leads and ghostly pads hidden in the background.

This is what you should come up with when you call yourself a cyberpunk artist! You can’t make fluffy unicorns and say you are cyberpunk! I need wires, crunchy bass-lines, grease and code lines! This track delivers.

"Hacker Base" by Hunter Liang

10 - Fire and Forget

We do not Forgive. We do not Forget …

But we do Fire and Forget! The song that is! As in we play the track called “Fire and Forget“ It’s a pretty rad and dope song …by Inexedra!

Once again with a beat reminiscent of the early 2000s! It’s action time! We are accelerating in our Delorean, leaving fiery tracks behind us! Burning the past and looking forward to a bright future of more Inexedra albums!

Back To The Future Movie

This track brings us more of what we’re used to on this album, punchy beats, rad bass-line, leads with bite, character, credibility and cohesiveness when it comes to the atmosphere! The leads are actually like some sort of ASMR, very stimulating! This track also has an unexpected bpm change at the 5 minute mark! The whole thing goes faster and thus bringing the final push! The final sprint! The tsunami! The final countdown! For what was a truly inspiring and amazing journey!

Conclusion

The only criticism that I can think of is perhaps the sounds are too similar from one track to the next, even if the arrangement is different. However there are many projects that use the same sound design throughout the entire album such as Perturbator or Master Boot Record (who actually makes a point of focusing entirely on composition, and changes his alias completely when he uses new instruments), so it’s not really a bad thing and I really like those projects.

I would also say I expected more of an 80’s influence at first, taking in account his previous work, but in this album there is a predominantly modern feel with very few 80’s inspired elements.

In conclusion, I think with this album Inexedra manages to build quite a synth-spectrum, taking us through different sound design areas. It’s 2019 but with a dominant cyber-trance 2000’s feel with some 80’s coating. The feelings expressed go from energetically positive to aggressive, from ambient to dramatic! From Night City to Outer Space!

I am proud to advocate for this album be featured on Nightride.FM and also on our Cyberpunk Spotify Playlist!

Additionally, be sure to support Inexedra on Bandcamp

Vosto Vlad

Published August 01, 2019

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