By Rick Shithouse
Droid Bishop's eagerly anticipated debut full length record has arrived and the build up of excitement that has been finally unleashed. The Droid Bishop journey in 80s inspired sounds has always delivered a level of engagement and attachment to the music that is uncommon. His gift for creating spaces and conveying ideas and stories through his music has been some of my favourite and given the scope of what he's released thus far I, for one, was champing at the bit to see what he was going to come up with in his first full feature length record.
Looking back, one can see threads of ideas in previous releases now flourishing with sharp new vibrancy in Beyond The Blue. The energetic and emotive explorations of previous releases appear to have been turbocharged with energy and encompass even more new ideas over the course of the record. If there was one thing that really stands out the most, something that has been brought into razor sharp focus it is the contemporary crossover nature that swims deftly amongst the vintage 80s elements. In Beyond The Blue Droid Bishop has created an album that although being distinctly 80s in its soul wears bright modern elements proudly and gives them equal footing creating something that is going to appeal to a whole new audience.
The synthscape is constantly peppered with details of shiny new inventiveness against a background of lush and verdant 80s love and this combination only works so exceeding well due to the songwriting talent Droid Bishop has mastered over the course of Beyond The Blue's creation. 'Vanisher' enters stage left and proudly sings its vibrant, high energy refrains awash in the glow of the neon limelight. The first thing that hits you is the tightness of the production. Each facet is engineered with a gleaming, interlocking surface that slots into the production seamlessly. The overall presentation is grippingly fresh and this opening track lays out Droid Bishop's plan of attack with much colourful fanfare.
The songwriting, as I previously mentioned, is really where this album shines and for all the glitter and shine in the presentation it is the way each track is evolved and told that makes it such a stand out. Track two brings Droid Bishop into an 80s powered modern synth pop explosion as his brother Sam Sparro is brought into the fold for something very special. As a modern electronic pop track this has it all and smashes the vintage and contemporary worlds together with equal affection. 'Out Of My Mind' deserves to be a huge success; if the world is ready for it.
The title track for Beyond The Blue returns to the deeply emotive synthual pleasure Droid Bishop has become renowned for as he laces powerhouse melodies with ChipTune rooted nuances into a kaleidoscope of 80s colours. The presence and tone of the production makes the music sing in a rapturous refrain that soars with unmitigated elegance. An epilogue to 'Beyond The Blue', titled 'Letter To Earth' adds a somber completion to the idea, a short but sweet piece of poetic synth verse.
Droid Bishop's expansion into new realms of 80s sounds can be felt in nearly all the movements of Beyond The Blue and on tracks such as 'Moon Dancer' he allows himself to get floating along the groove and rock the undulating flow of the cool synth breezes. Guitars ride the night in a manner that is full of 80s homage while being engineered with a modern presence that defies any kind of pigeonholing. The structure of 'Moon Dancer' is rich and diverse, telling lucid stories and engaging the listener with all manner of fantastic tales.
The mood of 'Moon Dancer' is taken into the following track 'In My DeLorean' as Droid Bishop stays within the same universe and tells a new story. Dreamier elements drift into the synthscape but a focus is retained with highly charged elements combining into a supercharged fuel. Once again the interplay between the instruments and sounds feels thoroughly natural and is written in a way that maximises the excitement through every passage.
After the pure pop elation of 'Out Of My Mind' I couldn't believe my ears when I experienced 'In Your Love'. To prove that the magical musical forces conjured by Droid Bishop weren't a mere fluke he sets about creating a stunning synth pop soliloquy with his own voice doing all the talking. The emotive blend of vocal and melody is transfixing and infectious and the balance betwixt modern and vintage constructs is astounding. This is the kind of song that wins hearts, captivates imaginations and melts souls.
'The Infinite Dream' takes things back a few steps and allows the polish to cloud over ever so slightly as Droid Bishop embarks on an inward journey. Mirages sharpen and then blur into the background with melodic synth cues directing the languid course across the universe within. The placement of this track in the grand scheme of the album is perfect; giving the listener a contemplative opportunity to take in the grandeur of Droid Bishop's synthscape at a much less frenetic pace.
The sounds expand even further into cosmic spaces with the equally divine piece 'Born Of The Stars'. Superb percussive fills highlight the inquisitive melodic structures that resonate with their overt simplicity and alluring textures. There is comfort to be found in Droid Bishops music, a comfort that acts like a guiding hand through fantastic vistas. 'Through The Universe' continues this part of the journey as alien civilisations appear and sing their timeless songs through synthesized voices. Uplifting anthems soar and melodies evolve over aeons across multiple dimensions; tied together by essences of emotional force and innate beauty.
'Human' is a revelatory piece that completes this explorative journey into that which lies beyond the beyond and brings things back to a closeness felt through echoing heartbeats. The repeating refrain is contrasted by some of the most impressive uses of percussion on the album giving some kind of tribal earthiness to the majestic synth passages. The exploration is devoid of time and space and exists solely as a vision of Droid Bishop's creation.
The album trails off into a slow fade out with another short atmospheric piece, cut from the same cloth as 'Letter To Earth'. 'In The End' ties all the pieces together, grounding the myriad of ideas into a single focus. A dot of light that grows dimmer, but creates a warmth felt into the farthest reaches of our universal being.
80s Ladies Records presents Droid Bishop's Beyond The Blue album on their Bandcamp page here, and is currently offering a tonne of rockin packages of Beyond The Blue on cassette and compact disc as well as the official T-Shirt of Nikky Skorenzi's wonderful cover art. 2014 has seen some very big names in the 80s inspired synth scene release some incredible albums and it would now appear that it's time for Droid Bishop to join the uppermost echelons of true artists with this album.
Beyond The Blue feels like you're spending close, personal time with Droid Bishop. The music is heartfelt and is always created with a clear focus and retains this throughout each track. It is one of the most 'personal' albums I've had the pleasure of experiencing this year and the investment Droid Bishop has made in his music; every sacrifice of time, sleep, energy, sanity has become a personally handwritten piece of his soul that will stand as a testament to his inspired creativity. Beyond The Blue is the definition of a Synthetix Reference Experience and I hope this is a record that gets picked up by wider audience than the already devoted 80s inspired synth scene. Music this good needs to be given the opportunity to be heard and loved by everyone.