Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lancaster's First Is Summer's Last

From the U.S comes Lancaster with his rockin debut album Last Summer. This record took me by surprise as after being introduced to Lancaster via Girlfriend Record's PlugDJ I dug a little further and found he'd just recently released his first album.  It pleased me greatly to hear such beautifully realised 80s synth sounds packaged in an eight track record that covered such a blend of old and new sounds.

The combinations of vintage and classic sounds and how an artist employs them in their music is something I love investigating. In Lancaster's album we find some familiar and unfamiliar synthscapes that he puts to work very well. There is definitely a 'Lancaster style' on this album, an individuality of sounds that crosses many 80s and modern day paths and offers a different, stylised dimension.

This said, Last Summer contains two halves of very different content. The first four tracks are drawn from much 80s inspirations and glow with a wonderful neon soul. The other side of the album, from tracks 5 to 8, we're presented with a much more modern and experimental aesthetic that is only fleetingly coloured by 80s sounds and moves into territory that's not covered on Synthetix.FM. This review will focus on the album's first half and I'll leave the remaining pieces to be up to you, the individual listener to appreciate.

The first side of Last Summer begins with 'Star Runner' which presents the Lancaster sound perfectly and succinctly with a driving beat and catchy melodies. The arrangements are crafted in a modern and energetic manner which enhances  the lead melody's powerfully bright aura. I think 'succinct' is a very good descriptor for the Lancaster sound as his pieces are condensed and delivered with carefully applied passages that don't linger about. The music gets to work, works hard, and is then done.

This kind of format really makes Lancaster's synthscapes vital and intense, which is especially true of 'Camaro 1985'. The build is set at fever pitch from the get go and climbing higher and higher results in a focal point of melodic energy increasing in potency with every refrain. The zeal and fervor presented in this piece is awesome to behold, it pushes emotional sounds into something fierce that becomes fiercer and more dangerous as each second passes, leaving the listener breathless by it's conclusion.

The Lancaster sound is all about this intense beauty, it's an unwavering gaze that looks through you, beyond you, the focus remains unbroken. In 'Chicago St.' this is expanded upon further with vast echoes splitting ephemeral strains of soaring jubilation. The sounds transcend times and refuse to be limited to one decade, or even dimension. The composition's midpoint sidestep into a jaunty new aspect of exploration is completely unprecedented, yet works brilliantly. The truncated ending, however feels a tad jarring, but I can appreciate this form unsettling the listener and allowing for the bare minimum of comfort zone.

'Day One' brings a much more traditional 80s atmosphere that is driven by a marvellously up front drum track. The narrative evolves with a synthscape reminiscent of Futurecop!'s early work, which Lancaster uses dutifully and beautifully. This piece retains it's 80s beauty through many modern transitions and transformations with an intense build that finishes the idea. There is no pay off or drop to the build, instead it is there for it's own sake and it's own evolutionary tale, proving the journey can be just as (if not more) important than the destination.

As previously mentioned the remaining four tracks on Last Summer are decidedly more modern in aesthetic and bereft of 80s emotions, however Lancaster's experiments in Vapor Wave synthscapes on 'My Love' and the exceptionally avant garde 'That Night' are certainly deserving of your attentions.

Lancaster presents the Last Summer album on his Bandcamp page here and it's a release that Synthetix.FM highly recommends you experience. Lancaster's take on 80s sounds and modern arrangements are refreshing and hints at many exciting experiments in the future that I hope we get to experience as his blending of Vapor Wave and more directly 80s inspired synth sounds coalesce and form. Be sure to follow him on soundcloud here for more rockin Lancaster action and give him some love on Facebook here too.

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