Signal Void, a new synthwave project that appears on the horizon! However, the artist behind it is not new to the scene but rather going through a transformation. Previously he was known as 'N I M B V S' and had a style characterized by aggression mixed with dreamy melancholy.
The debut album as Signal Void has been unleashed under a new record label FIXT and it is rather a homage to his previous project, containing all of 'N I M B V S' releases repackaged in one album called "This Liminal Reality" - a shell that when fired will cause a devastating shock-wave of megalithic proportions! I would like to think that under this new identity he will still keep his signature style and the fact that he is not discarding his old material, but rather re-releasing it, reinforces this idea. It is thus a great pleasure for me to revisit and talk about these tracks.
But first I would like to compliment the artwork which perfectly describes the overall aesthetic of the music. Signal Void has a really superb blend between warm basses and icy Vangelis style synths! This kind of duality is well expressed in the picture.
So let's take a dive into this chest of goodies!
A steady mastodon of beat welcomes us in "Ultra Violet". In a few seconds I am already completely immersed in the cyberpunk atmosphere. The first 2 minutes are pretty mean... like an angry storm over the cityscape as you cruise through it with no problems riding on your new TESLA truck. The storm then stops for a while and we look over the spacey landscape around us. This space is very well simulated with lush pads, a breeze of white noise and a blade runner influenced, waspy, reverbed, long-noted lead. This moment is very effective in relaying those epic feels, slowly transforming into a build-up that culminates and resolves back into an aggressive beat with a new inspiring lead melody on top.
This is exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned about the artist's overall character, behold! That perfect blend between inspiring melancholic melodies supported by punchy beats and an angry bass. After this section concludes the focus is brought back on the progression from the start of the track, where the primordial elements (the bass and the drums) are still surrounded by excellent synths that give it a smooth but very strong atmosphere. Slowly we drive off into the distance as the track fades away.
I can say that this track has an interesting structure as well because it doesn't respect canonical formulas, but rather does its own thing more on the order of: mastodon > silent epic > space melody & build up > epic space melody & serious beats > mastodon > finish .
After listening to this I remind myself of that fiery wish that this is the type of track that I want to hear in the upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077. I don't think that I am the only one, in fact I think there are many voices out there craving this sort of style. But will we be heard? Or will they drop some mumble cyber trap instead...we shall see
We continue on the epic train with "Eidolon" which makes me automatically ask myself what is it? is it a planet? a substance? a weapon? a mastodon but on a different planet? The search engine reveals to me that it is a ghost or an ideal and also a hotel in a town close to me. Perhaps it is an ideal ghost of a mastodon. I am obsessed with mastodons today... but that's what these Signal Void tracks make me think of.
Once again we have a steady intro with a very rad bass, satisfying drums and classic 80's toms. A nicely coloured lead synth opens the gate to us and blooms into a great chorus that showcases the best combination of lead elements that can be heard in synthwave.
There is a big feeling of exploration throughout this song and I feel like meeting an old friend and then going on an adventure, an adventure that involves shooting lasers rifles at space invaders while we are riding on Falkor from Never Ending Story! It's a great feeling! The moment of silence is very satisfying... When you hear that lead by itself, sliding playfully wherever it wants. You can tell that Signal Void is all about free-flowing sound and natural movements, and he makes some fantastic drones as well.
The track then sort of repeats itself but that's fine because we want to hear all those elements again, when something is done right repetition is welcomed! The ending leaves a question mark I feel and not a conclusion and I wonder if something better could have been made to completely fulfil the prophecy of an amazing track.
"Gaia" is a slower and softer track but in a good way. Some solid and thoughtful immersion takes us through the clouds, or maybe the forests of Star Wars's victorious Ewoks.
What I like about Singal Void is that it doesn't take long for the track to present its power! At 1:30 we already know what the track is about and we are directly induced by the artist's vision and held there steadily until the end of the track. The ambient elements, the sound effect particles, the play with brightness filters, the warm bass and the crystal leads all contribute to establishing a fantasy of spectacle and light.
I am a fan of getting into the punch of a track early, but I am an even bigger fan of long intros, if they are well crafted! And that is what we see in "Dusk".
This is Blade Runner right here... but more Blade Runner 2049 or Star Citizen or in other words, it's very modern sounding cinematic cyberpunk. The dialogue of synths that one can witness is very impressive and well constructed. There is a good combination of smaller and bigger synths that come and go in the intro and sing to us a memorable melancholic melody.
After a pause and a melodic twist, the beat starts to kick in at 2:20 and fully matures at 2:40, this time displaying a more fighting courageous spirit. The melancholy comes back at 3:30 and stays with us until the end of the song where we get to hear the original theme again. Overall the experience is very complete and so for me this piece is a favourite from the album and from synthwave in general. This kind of material is what makes me believe in the power of synth! And we are only at track 4!
We continue our journey with "The Revenant" which to me feels like a march. I believe it touches perhaps involuntarily some sovietwave territory with its melodic approach... I can easily imagine the main lead of the song at 1:17 be performed by a chanting military choir. I may be off with this impression but for me this track has a big fighting spirit, something serious is going down and we are on the frontlines...
However, my theory completely disintegrates when we hear the peaceful drones at 2:11. The pads here remind me of 80's movies for sure... but very deep ones... under the ocean deep, maybe we are discovering the hollow earth? I like how this second melody brings a different tone and perspective to the track.
These varied progressions show that Signal Void is not a one note man, he knows the way of the synths. All the sounds in this track give me the impression that they were very well picked, with a lot of care for context. All this detail and clarity makes me think that this track was not thrown down in 2 days in the studio, but who knows... maybe it was, and if it was then I am left speechless...another masterpiece!
I find myself at track 6 and I am starting to think do I even have anymore complimentary words left? Because this is getting ridiculous. In the first seconds of "Ambedo" I am already absorbed by the melody and atmosphere, then the amazing drum work appears with some energetic pumps yet again, and we hear the tastiest of synth textures.
I understand why these things were all released as singles initially, because if I was in the studio hearing this as it was made I would be like "Yes! This is the track! It must be released now!" Once again all the sections of the track expose us to some very well crafted moments. The instruments are being revealed in a progressive manner and with precise pacing, nothing feels drawn out or rushed, it is pure clockwork mastery here when it comes to how the segments are presented and everything feels intuitively on time.
The overall aesthetic of this track is that of a journey... well you could say that about any track, but this one has a more clear sense of movement. Perhaps they don't, but to me the beats and the melody sound very much like a moving train, except in space, therefore we are on a clear mission, of resource gathering and transportation in Homeworld.
I hear a tape sound! is it "Nightcall" by Kavinsky? no, it's "Caesura"! This track brings some top notch sound design and focus on atmosphere, it is a satisfying 2 minutes and a half which takes me to a Deus Ex sunrise, standing on the roof of a building observation the cityscape while rain falls slowly, sparkling in the sunlight. In this case the rain is not just me making metaphors but you can actually hear it as a sample within the track, it fits perfectly. The melody lead has some nice filters on it and is backed up by other glorious drones and synths, however, I wish there was a little bit more variety and not just this loop.
I really like that cinematic hit at 54 seconds, it kind of makes things more bad-ass, and brings with it a nice pulsating bass synth that communicates in timing with the lead so well that you almost think it's one thing. There are multiple elements in this song that synchronize together to create the grand illusion of unity, even I struggle to hear everything. For example there are also these cool panning smaller elements and generally there is a very natural movement to all the sounds. Nothing is left untouched by good modulation choices and subtle effects.
We are left with three songs in this album, songs that, unsurprisingly, are at the same level of production!
After listening to the previous tracks a spark of energy was needed to boost the album even further, and that spark is represented by the unexpected bass groove that we find in "Mantra". This track is playful, funky, but serious and melancholic at the same time. It will definitely rock some dance floors and it probably already has.
Initially, when I heard the half time beat, I thought that I was going to hear some dubstep, but behold, I got funky alien dance floors instead! It's a really fun track to listen to, ending in a fade-out, letting us know that the party will keep on going. Some will probably not perceive the funkiness of this tune, but for me the groove is clear and strong!
Track number nine brings us to mysterious lands. The lead of this track, which is actually a pad, whispers to us a great theme, a story which shall not be forgotten, and makes me think of ghosts or something beyond our limited dimension and perception.
Again I will emphasize the nice warm bass that underlines and shapes the identity of Signal Void. Like a strong material, but liquid at the same time, perhaps it is the poly-mimetic alloy that the T-1000 and advanced terminators were made of. I really like these bass textures, especially at the 1:20 mark where the bass is multilayered and speaks to us into the most beautiful of growly textures... a soft liquid growl not a harsh one.
I would rather have well sculpted materials than loud bricks thrown in your face, and that's where my poly-alloy comparison comes from. Signal Void comes at you like a flexible, charismatic terminator and not a rigid machine.
The other elements of the track compliment this flexibility... There's a very bouncy and stereophonic arp going on as well as some glitchy hi-hats. My favourite section of the track is actually the silent part, that brings with it simplicity and complexity at the same time.
At 2:21 a piano takes the spotlight with soft key strokes that resonate into the distance. This one piano sound manages to fill our landscape by itself with nice delays and a touch of distortion.
Sometimes cinematic hits are added with a touch of sub bass to make the atmosphere even more epic. After this moment the track goes back to its full energy carrying the piano sound through until the end of the track.
This kind of sound reminds me of the Metro Exodus main soundtrack for some reason. The wasteland awaits us to discover some "Static Souls"!
Speaking of liquids the last track of this album has even more fluidic textures, but this time the atmosphere is very chill. The conclusion is written here and its letters spell out that Signal Void is a very versatile composer, able to craft powerful, energetic tracks, but also ambience and drones. To be fair, even his energetic tracks have drones and ambient textures all around, however, in this track the focus is on these textures rather than them being just contributing elements. "Moving Mountains" is the best after party track but it can also stand on its own being the main event at an ambient party!
This song has some very creative synths, supporting elements and a satisfying layered snare with a long reverberating tail. A very dope 'n' rad distorted lead appears in the distance at about 2 minutes and revisits us throughout the rest of the track. It is a very welcomed little melody that was the final piece of the puzzle to make this track truly shine.
It is no coincidence that this album has 10 tracks in it, because for me it was a 10 out of 10 experience. Every single track had something to say and I am eagerly waiting for some new Signal Void material. In the meantime you can enjoy these tracks on the Nightride FM radio.
Without a shadow of a doubt Signal Void manages to tell credible and unique stories. Despite the over-saturated synthwave market, there is still hope for gems and wonders, and for me that is what artists such as Signal Void represent.
Buy and support "This Liminal Reality"