Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Palm Highway Chase On The ARPNET

I may have mentioned this in a review or two previously on Synthetix.FM but being able to review new music from my favourite pioneers of the initial 80s synth revival of the late 00's is thrilling for me, to say the least. One of my biggest dreams when I began Synthetix was being able to finally give some love and support to the artists that made a difference to me nearly five years ago. Palm Highway Chase (PHC) is one of those artists. I fell in love with his Streethawk track off MOTU2 V.2 instantly and his Escape From New York album (available still on vinyl!!) is still one of the greatest album releases the 80s inspired synth scene has produced. The album still sounds as fresh, vital and individual as it did in 2009 and it's inspirational that PHC's new album retains the artists stylistic hallmarks while also forging new ideas.

Of course, this isn't to say it's been such a long time in between drinks for PHC, there have been a smattering of small releases in between these two albums (not least of which is this recent gem) but it's ARPNET that marks this artist's 'next level' so to speak. This reclusive producer, even by the scene's standards, appears to have constructed his own world that he exists in; creating his own music to his own rhythms and beats and when done transports it into our dimension. These visions of another plane of existence are a large part of the PHC mystique and on ARPNET we get the most intimate view yet.

The PHC style itself is one of the most avant garde in the scene, and has been since day one. Compositions are rarely over three minutes long and synthscape takes 80s Library Music into a parallel universe of technological wonderment and experimentation. This producer densely packs his ideas into paragraphs of intensely detailed aural poems in a manner that is highly invigorating. Like 'dark matter' in musical form the depth of the ideas and synthscapes have texture and presence that transcend the human constructed limitations of time.

Take the opening piece for example, classically titled 'Outrun'. Stereo panning basslines wind in and out dangerous turns and synth melodies falling like a downpour descend onto the road, choking the engines sounds, opening new spectrums while closing others. The layers cut and weave in and out perception before disappearing entirely. Left breathless, the silence returns briefly upon which the title track powers into view. A behemoth of machine gun percussion and bright synths evolves into stabbing refrains of cascading synth brilliance. The speed and intensity is blinding in g-force pulling rush of pure magic.

PHC's experimental synthscapes are often his most alluring, as evidenced 'LA Darkzone'. Cold winds of melodies are bracing and piercing while drum tracks create discordant echoes, pounding with life but jaggedly in disarray. Synths climb above the turbulent atmosphere with grace but below the world churns in obscured, ravenous darkness. Rising into a much more idyllic and peaceful dimension is the wonderfully uplifting 'Dream Level'. Arpeggiated flights of fancy become swirling lights of golden warmth, barely able to hold their physical forms, drifting in and out of coherence and vision.

In 'Future Shock' PHC conveys huge amounts of atmosphere within seconds of it's beginning. Thudding and machine like but taking on organic elements that are compacted and merged to magnify the weight and power of the music. The movements become lighter and broader brush strokes are given to melodic parts that then take on their own new forms of existence. These forms are evolved into even more incredible ideas in 'Shoreline Outrun' which dizzies in it's tremendous build until the elementsal forms coalesce into a euphorically moving refrain that is easily one of the cresting high points of the album.

Taking back some of the musical intensity, only slightly, and instead concentrating on the radiance of the melodies, the sweetly beautiful 'Invisible ARP' is intimate and joyous with it's light embodied presence, glowing with unadorned exquisiteness. Future violence returns with 'Street Temple' crushing its way through. The intensity in each facet of the music is teetering on breaking point and as the war machine gains momentum new and powerful visions are cast in a shroud of temporal distortions.

Continuing the back and forth zigzagging journey from light to dark PHC gets dreamy and wistful in his own version of Synth Romance with 'High School'. Love drunk passages eddy and sway with giddy affection, electrifying moments with freeze framed instances of endearing naiveté. 'Arena' swaggers in after 'High School' as a massively catchy piece of pure Library gold. The triumphant melodies are full of the winning spirit and drive for perfection, focused on positivity and delivering the musical equivalent of the clenched fist of success.

'Atari Prime' allows for some very avant gard arrangements to meander and create their own destinies in a free forming synthscape with undulating waves giving buoyancy and verve to the stylised, robotlike melodies. It serves as the perfect link to the final track, 'End Of Drive' which offers an air of calmness as muted instruments and star filled vistas pulse with emotion. Our journey through PHC's ARPNET dimension is complete and as we return to our own familiar time and space our surrounds take on new lustres and magical colours, touched by spells weaved by this artist, giving us a glimpse at the domain in which he exists.

ARPNET as an album creates worlds and allows us to be involved in them first hand. The twelve tracks are all individual highlights that are in themselves then fabricated of incredibly wonderful moments. This album feels like it finally captures what PHC is all about as an artist, with each distilled vision being stunningly crafted with exacting precision while keeping an organic and free-flowing ambiance.

Rosso Corsa Records presents Palm Highway Chase's ARPNET album on their Bandcamp page here. As a long time fan of this artist I can barely contain my elation over how satisfying this record is, for those new to the PHC experience you're in for a huge treat unlike anything else you've heard before. The sounds created here as an enthralling as they are individual, distinguishing PHC's synthscapes from every other producer in the scene. More than anything else this record is art of a uniquely refined character, it is truly a Synthetix Reference Experience and is an album everyone with a love for 80s inspired synth music needs to have in their music library as well as their imaginations.

1 comment:

  1. That track titled LA Darkzone is a killer, It's like a mix of 80s synth and 2000s progressive house/breaks. Awesome atmosphere and trippy as hell. :)