Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Astral Stereo Project Scores The Anti Hero

Neil C Holdsworth's monicker, The Astral Stereo Project, is much more than a name plucked from a selection of retro associated idioms but instead is a descriptor and blueprint for his soundscapes. With Holdsworth's latest release The Astral Stereo Project has become a vision of cosmic sound waves with views to the past, present and future available to all those willing to take the flight into discovery.

The album is titled Anti Hero and it's varied chapters are tied together by spatial energies bound to earthly emotions. Instrumental tracks are picturesque and flow with much beauty while the songs on the album acquire a greater intimacy that feels genuine and honest. The overall story is richly told as the soundtrack describes the action and relationships of the titular Anti Hero.

The opening track, 'She Dances At The Metropolis' sets the perfect stage for Anti Hero's synthual repast. All the tracks on this record seem to contain otherworldly elements that either drive the experience or allude to other dimensional realities more subtly. This first chapter is full of emotive strings and swooshing stars that are propelled by a bassline of restrained elegance. The moods move from 80s passions into 70s disco synthscapades which are then allowed to fully mature in the second chapter 'L.A. Ripper'.

This second outing is definitely one of the most vintage sounding experiences on the record with a hugely 70s progressive synth atmosphere accented by a galloping rhythm section. It's a jazzy affair that allows for the lead the synths to take flight and soar in sumptuous cosmic vistas of crisp night air. This track is beautifully explored and realised, leading perfectly into the first song on the album 'Midnight Dancers'.

It's in this piece that The Astral Stereo Project begins to show it's hand and expose it's genius in a divine manner. Theres something about the vocal that reminds me of some of Peter Gabriels work, which is no bad thing, and the music is produced in a lingering intimacy of timeless beauty. The synths are met with    a beautifully complementary guitar track and combine with the vocals to make a spectacular pop synth experience that draws from many decades but is married to none.

The intimate moods continue in the next song entitled 'High Tension'. The atmosphere of earlier pieces is revisited and is given new directions and tales to explore as the smooth vocals are set betwixt smoothly undulating melodies and flickering stars cast an inviting light. The tension suggested in this track is given much more weight in the following piece 'Downtown Patrol' which ramps up the drama and exponentially.

Shades of John Carpenter-esque melodies give the track an Assault On Precinct 13/Escape From New York kind of flavour and the synths are fashioned in the perfect manner to describe finely crafted details while the robust and forceful percussion drives home the melodrama. 'Luna's Theme' finds The Astral Stereo Project delving into more 70s soundscapes with the mirrorball spinning on a cosmic axis across an dance floor planetoid. The music is so smoothly constructed with such a languid pace that it relaxes you down to your soul and caresses you with is velvet textures and soft lighting.

As if to shock you back from the romantic dreamscapes into reality arrives 'Fire With Fire' on the scene which I think works as the 'next chapter' to 'Downtown Patrol' after the affectionate interlude of 'Luna's Theme'. This instrumental sets the sky on fire with it's incendiary lead synths supported by shimmering falling stars and robotic rhythms. Holdsworth once again traverses decades in minutes while retaining the timelessness of space within the music's beating heart.

The next track on Anti Hero is definitely one of the most frenetic as a build more than half the length of the actual song leads into rocket fuelled synth delights as the 'Marina Freeway Pursuit' serves as a precursor to the final chapter, the action packed and explosive title track. Drama is thick with tension and quests for redemption amid flashes of light, fire and passion in the darkest hours before the dawn.

The Anti Hero experience is a complete soundtrack in it's formulation and the stories of love and baser human desires. It's told in a way that I find enduring as a whole but also the pieces as separate entities on their own intimate singular moments of emotional rewards and action packed excitement.

The Astral Stereo Project presents the Anti Hero album on Bandcamp here at a name-your-own-price point. The music on this record is full of rewarding experiences that feel both from distant worlds and from closer moments. Holdsworth has a weaved a pastiche of musical flavours from many decades into a focused and concise tale that is a joy to experience. Synthetix.FM highly recommends Anti Hero as a soundtrack/synth pop experience unlike any other and one that bodes well for future sounds from The Astral Stereo Project's creative machinations.

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