By Rick Shithouse
Although I don't go into much of my personal interests on Synthetix.FM that are outside of the music it's opportunities to experience music like Beckett's new album that allows for a delightful crossover. When it comes to videogames the 16bit era was one of my favourites, I was in my late adolescence/early adulthood during this age and was heavily into the major systems of the time. It was at this point I began importing games and my purchase of a Super Famicom in early 1991 that brings forth many fond memories of classic gaming experiences; ones I love going back to relive over and over. My love of the music from this period has been forever in my heart as a piece of music from Super Castlevania IV is still my favourite piece of instrumental music of all time.
This classic generation of gaming is what drove Beckett's imagination to create Search Of 34; a soundtrack to a Super Nintendo game that doesn't exist outside of his own mind but one he brings to life through rousing synth anthems of refined pedigree. The synthscape employed by Beckett is a mix of 'real' instruments that are then accented with 16bit era details that create a blend of sounds which is wholly enticing. Much like Arcade High's implementation of 8bit and early arcade game sounds in symbiosis with more real world sounds Beckett does things in a similar manner using the next generation of sounds. The blend of both worlds is smooth and never jarring as much thought has been given to specific elements to make the combination as coherent as possible.
One just needs to take in the verdant synth vistas of the opening title track that rocks along like an anthem from the likes of F-Zero or Axelay as energetic, high speed action is coloured by totally kick arse passages of pure melodic 80s delight. The synths are drenched in a 16bit aura that then ignites into maelstrom of dramatic twists and turns and Beckett plays off some great percussive details against and an eternally ascending bassline.
The intensity of the opening title subsides into a more atmospheric tone with 'Navigator'. A lilting lead melody rises above the chattering intrigue that busies itself at ground level while a huge drum track marches on obliviously. There is underlying fears and questions being asked amid the synthscape's elements but this is only the beginning of the story and Beckett knows how to give the listener just enough details to keep them enthralled.
The quieter periods of the Search Of 34 let Beckett really shine in his creation of structures and story telling ability and like in 'Path Finder' often take us on a surprising journey. The soundtrack turns more adventure-based and deliberate in a mix stealthy surveillance and nocturnal secrets. The moon rises with new passion, moving into definite night time moods with the emotionally delicate 'Legacy' as Beckett displays some absolutely wondrous Synth Romance stylings.
'Turbo' takes things back out into the skies as a warmly rounded 16bit bassline powers into the stratosphere with much vigour. As a sequel to the opening piece this track delivers high speed thrills and non stop action, this time feeling a tad more HyperZone than F-Zero but definitely rockin to the max from beginning to end. Opting for a funkier punch Beckett brings on the guitars and works the bassline like a melonfarmer in 'Miami Dawn'. The synths sparkle and dance amid a gyrating bassline and guitar flourishes giving a very sweet Library ambience to the proceedings.
Drama comes back with the majestic, driving refrain of 'Lock Target'. The story is detailed with lovingly implemented subtleties in a way that never breaks the mood of the piece. Beckett does this time and time again on this album and his way of weaving the elements into a brightly coloured coherent piece of music that explores the subject matter with such clarity and never loses focus or his way amid the set pieces.
The passion for these soundtrack oriented atmospheric pieces is examined deeper in the ethereal 'Left To Rest' as finely reverent synths sing in pained unison to the heavens. Delicate and laid emotionally bare the sleight and weakened voices join as one triumphantly. As the scene fades to black in a final act of respect, then the engines roar back up into high gear and accelerate into the horizon with 'Run For Home'. A slightly eastern flavour adds an extra layer of zest to this track that gains momentum and positivity through every rockin passage.
'Fortune Favours' brings the experience to a close with another track steeped in emotional context as the time is taken to look back over the adventure we've had; reflecting on the losses and basking in the conquests. An air of melancholy permeates the positivity just enough to be felt and looking out across the vast wasteland once more, we wonder who's left and what kind of future there is for all of us.
Beckett presents the Search Of 34 album on his Bandcamp page here and it comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM. The way Beckett tells his story and invites you into his world is a truly wonderful experience. The delightful homage to the classic 16bit soundtracks that many of us remember fondly is the perfect accompaniment to structures Beckett details and illustrates throughout the Search Of 34. Now we just need someone to come along and make the actual game...