Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Astral Stereo Project In Disco Death Sleaze

Synthetix.FM last visited with Astral Stereo Project in September last year with the Anti Hero LP in which many wonders of vintage synth sounds were explored and detailed. Neil Holdsworth has now released the follow up album to Anti Hero with the wonderfully titled Disco Death Sleaze album and the Astral Stereo Project sound gets taken into some very rockin new dimensions.

The actual sound of Astral Stereo Project is most unlike a lot of the 'standard definitions' of 80s inspired synth music. In Disco Death Sleaze we're treated to an even broader horizon of synthscapes that results in some remarkable combinations of sounds and melodies. Obvious inspirations from artists like Pink Floyd and Bowie run through much of the vocal oriented tracks while classical styled pieces meld with the disco synth moods seamlessly. This is album is highly ambitious in each track and it's a true indication of Neil Holdsworth's talent in songwriting that makes this album so engaging.

One of the most alluring features of the Astral Stereo Project, and this album in particular, is that you're never quite sure where you stand, from track to track and even chapter to chapter of individual tracks. In the opening piece, 'Discotheque', we're greeted by screams of terror before beautifully uplifting melodies take us on an intergalactic voyage. The samples and vocals and precision arrangements create something I guarantee you've never quite heard before. It's bewitching and comforting while causing just a hint of uneasiness. A tone that puts you in good stead for the rest of the album.

The smooth melodies of Astral Stereo Project have definitely matured noticeably since Anti Hero and this brilliant, languid exploration of melodies is very pronounced in the second track 'Savage Narcissus'. The accents on the melody are sharp as a knife with crashing cymbals as high voltage guitars bringing and air of maliciousness to the calm tranquility of the lead refrain.

'DeSelle Intermezzo' introduces some highly refined and articulate classical embellishments to the synthscape. The high energy OutRun drums somehow manage to compliment the suite of strings and synths sing harmoniously working a magic all their own. This blending of classical and 80s sounds is absolutely one of my favourite new developments in the 80s inspired synth scene and Holdsworth conjures megatons of sweeping, emotional melodic structures that make two vintage sound forms all brand new.

The Astral Stereo Project's penchant for the dirtier side of disco melodies really shines in track four, 'Goin Boogyin'. The sleaze is positively dripping off the arrangements with grinding bodies administering all manner of funky frottage. The 70s sounds crossover beautifully with the 80s elements and the resulting mix is sure to get anyone hot and bothered in the best possible way.

Exploring more ambient pop moods becomes a new part of the Astral Stereo Project experience and in 'Skin Deep' we experience a new level of glowing pop magic. The arrangements are delectably delicate, gauzy with sentiment and reminiscence and the poetic vocal performance is earth shatteringly spectacular. 'Skin Deep' is pure vintage pop perfection and a real jewel in the crown for this record.

'Cruising (2AM)' takes things back onto the road with a rockin bassline ushering in dramatic percussion  returning to an OutRun motif. Melodies intimate a boiling beneath the austere surface which then takes on a new sense of being courtesy of the cool vocal track. The vocals add pathos and ask questions, leading to further ill intentions but this darker side is merely shadows flashing by, moments of weakness, moments you can't come back from, that lie down a path not taken.

The classical disco synth returns with delightful vengeance in track seven 'Death In Bavaria'. By enlisting glistening piano sounds the melodies are given refreshing contrast against the synth and strings backdrop. The second movement of this piece is exuberantly grandiose in the eloquently explored melodies. It's a beautiful piece of music that again mixes sounds of different past centuries into a timeless experience.

The final track of Disco Death Sleaze is possibly the complete opposite of all three title words as 'Lieben Suite' basks in the beauty created in ' Skin Deep' and adds a classy refinement to it that is absolutely glorious. The lyrics speak of moving on from the painful past romance while the feelings of days passed offer only a faint pain. Looking forward, to something more, to a better time without her. 'Lieben Suite''s lyrical refrain is painfully poignant and is uttered with reflective understanding. The soundscape provides a bittersweet melancholy which sums up the sentiment perfectly.

The Astral Stereo Project presents the Disco Death Sleaze album on Bandcamp here. I found this album brimming over with beautiful arrangements and visionary songwriting. The music and vocals work in perfect tandem with each other, complimenting nuances and giving massive gravitas and emotion to the experience. Synthetix.FM very, very highly recommends this album as wonderfully rich example of how styles of numerous decades and centuries can be combined into something far greater than the sum of its parts.

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