By Jon Of The Shred
20SIX Hundred's Player One is a release I've been looking forward to for a long time. 20SIX Hundred provided numerous samples and full tracks online before the release, and it certainly built the anticipation amongst the Synthwave community. It was a no-contest for my second choice in album reviews for Synthetix.FM, especially, as a fellow guitarist. The album starts appropriately, as if someone has walked up to an arcade and entered the coin. And so their journey begins.
'First Person' kicks into a rockin' groove, laid back and slightly ominous. As the song progresses more melodic elements continue to be introduced. As a gamer I could see this song starting up after you wait too long on the “Start/Options” screen, when the game gives you a short cinematic/basic story rundown. These were actually quite prevalent in arcade games, obviously, as they stand waiting for the player to join the game.
'Career Mode' starts with a great descending line harkening back to the 8bit/C64 era. The bass is driving, and the melodies infectious and catchy. The song builds a taste of wonderment and awe, as the player begins their journey into pixelated lands to exact pixelated justice on pixelated foes with pixelated weaponry. After soaring to a melodic hook, we are treated to a very trippy section with all kinds of awesome audio effects. It's a wonderful blend of gaming and synth technology, walking the fine line between chiptunes and synthwave without committing fully to either, standing in a unique realm of its own, (or a unique arcade, I should say).
The next track, 'Over World' starts off with quite a mellow groove. The sensual sax is used here with the sex dialed turned up, conjuring images of neon-lit city slums, streets lined with drug peddling derelicts and working girls as fog creeps into the sky out of sewers. Certainly sounds like an interesting over world. The guitar that kicks in takes things up a notch, playing the perfect complimentary notes, and rising in complexity as the track progresses.
'Hack N' Slash' is up next, with ominous tones taking us from the slummy cities and alleys mentioned before and replacing them with dark forests; housing even darker dungeons, crawling with murderous psychopaths. When the track really kicks into its groove, it hits this Pink Floyd-esque peak that's just mesmerizing The way the clean, delay-drenched guitar gallops along with all the other musical elements makes this track a very unique and satisfying blend, continuing the trend of new variant of genre exploration in each track. If Pink Floyd had composed the soundtrack to a game about a survival horror slasher game, I imagine THIS is what it would sound like. Phenomenal stuff.
After dodging the blades of slasher foes, it's time to reap the benefits of survival and 'Level Up'. The track starts with ominous, Tangerine Dream-esque drones and sequencing, before going into a more upbeat number, complete with claps to lighten the mood. The ascending chord progression definitely gives the impression of one levelling up. The guitar solo towards the end of the track is another welcome addition of axe work on the album. As I mentioned before, as a guitarists, these are always a highlight for me.
“Vehicular Combat” is a track that slowly builds in cadence before exploding into a driving number that packs punch. Acoustic guitars gallop along with intensity as dark, ominous melodies fill the air above them, the whole track bubbling with tension and drama. The break down is very cinematic, bringing great tension to the table. Any video game would be lucky to have music this badass and well realized in it's soundtrack.
And so it goes, track after track kicking ass and taking names. It's as if each song is a different thematic level of this giant game that is about different kinds of games. 20SIX Hundred has crafted a truly unique, signature sound. Not only does he stand out in the scene as his own entity, but each track on this album offers a diverse take on this signature sound he's crafted and serves it up differently each time, while still maintaining the musical cohesion of a continuing narrative.
20SIX Hundred presents the Player One album on his Bandcamp page here and it truly is quite the accomplishment, both musically and thematically. Player One is well deserving of the ultimate Synthetix nod of approval (as well as my personal Jon of the Shred nod of approval). This album is a must. It's diverse, fresh, unique, and well realized. This is without a doubt a Synthetix Reference Experience.