Friday, May 24, 2013

OGRE's Calico Brawn

The inspirations of what drives many producers of 80s inspired synth music are as varied as they are plentiful, however there are numerous sources that are an eternal well. Miami Vice is one of these such eternal inspirations. This single TV show managed to encapsulate almost every single element of 80s-cool, more so than possibly any other TV series. It was a lifestyle show, depicting the diversity of 80s icons, from cop stars to pop stars and everything in between.

When you go back to Miami Vice and re-watch it you begin to notice a great deal more than sports cars and salmon blazers. The way this show was shot and edited, the diverse characters the sheer amount of action and excitement in each episode and the way all this was taken to 'the next level' by it's soundtrack make Miami Vice one of the penultimate exponents of what makes the 80s so wonderful.

I'm sure if you're reading this you're well aware of Jan Hammer's work in Miami Vice's soundtrack. His iconic theme and incidental music are still as visionary as they were originally. One just needs to see how many times Crockett's Theme has been covered in recent times to witness the power of Jan Hammer's music. It's the music that gave the show it's emotion, it's life and it's immortality. The combining of vision and sound had never been so intrinsically linked in a prime time TV show, nor since, and to this day the Miami Vice experience is unlike anything else of similar genre.

This brings us to the latest record from OGRE. Calico Brawn is one producer's take on the Miami Vice experience as a sum of it's elements as opposed to a single fragment. What's achieved across this record is a spectacular range of music that complements the Miami Vice aesthetic to perfection.

OGRE has presented many soundtrack experiences in recent times, often a vast nebulae of synths presented in an epic format. With Calico Brawn OGRE has taken his sound and formed it into the perfect accompaniment to the visuals of Miami Vice. I dare anyone to have an episode of Miami Vice playing, mute the volume, crank up Calico Brawn and deny this serendipitous experience. This is not OutRun flavoured Synthwave, this is soundtrack synth performed and composed with a sublime level of understanding and vision.

The parts of Calico Brawn are segmented ideas, vignettes of action, tension, love and excitement. There are moments when Jan Hammer feels like he's stepping in and taking the reigns, but OGRE wrestles them back with his own stylistic choices and progressions. The familiarity of the instruments used never feel like a cop out or a cheap imitation. All the synths contain a sincerity, or synthcerity as I shall call this from now on.

The fact hardware synths and VHS mastering techniques have been used for this record make the difference as the organic nature of the chords and notes feel true and full of depth. The layering in each piece is peerless as OGRE always makes the melodies speak eloquently, allowing them to be understood clearly, without distraction or feeling like that have to shout to be heard above the cacophony.

This is really what separates the experiences into genuine soundtrack pieces. The stories are so delightfully written and executed that every track is purposeful and self contained. Calico Brawn states it's business in every track openly. You instantly know what's happening visually and the music provides all the dialogue necessary. The heady moments of Miami Vice are presented for your aural pleasure in a most satisfying way from the opening 'Always Outnumbered, Never Outrun' to 'All's Well That Ends Well'.

As pieces can get very episodic in nature, their diversity adds even more intrigue. Hip hop style jams like 'Stay Tuned' and the tangibly David Lynchian 'OJO' keep things fresh and full of details that demand your attention as each act reaches it's climax and takes you onto the next chapter. Throughout the entire record my imagination is kept sharply focused on what's being presented, there are no lapses in OGRE's concentration or passages that exist without purpose.

Calico Brawn is a massive accomplishment for this producer and I believe OGRE has ventured into a territory that he feels very comfortable in that also affords him an opportunity to spread his creative wings ever further.

OGRE presents Calico Brawn on his Bandcamp page here and this release comes with a very, very high recommendation from Synthetix.FM. I love what this records presents and how it so consistently captures my attention and refuses to relinquish it. I encourage every fan of 80s inspired synth music to pick this up as soon as possible and add a slice of Miami Vice to your life in supremely rockin way.

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