Tuesday, November 25, 2014

OGRE's Adventure In 195

Synthetix.FM is honoured to have Andy Last of Beyond Synth fame as a guest reviewer for OGRE's totally rockin new record. Take it away Andy!

By Andy Last

It is my pleasure to review OGRE’s latest album 195, a soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist but I really wish did. I should apologize in advance because my prose style is not as flowery and rich as one might expect from a Rick Shithouse review, but we all know there’s only one Rick Shithouse. As a nod to Rick, some of the review may go into flights of fancy as I say what I imagined while listening to a particular track.

Anyone who knows me knows my love for OGRE’s music. So much so that, with his blessing, I made his track 'Shore Thing' the theme song to the Beyond Synth podcast. To this day, the majority of the questions I get regarding the show are new listeners asking me who makes the theme music. Hopefully I’ve made Robin a few British pounds in the process.

OGRE a.k.a. Robin Ogden, was the first person I interviewed in the synth scene and to this day remains one of my favourites, with the track 'Shore Thing' being one of best songs I’ve ever heard regardless of genre.

195, like all of OGRE’s releases is beautifully mixed and mastered and sounds great on any system I play it on. All of his work has a full sound that always seems to sit perfectly in the sound spectrum. He really is one of the top producers in synthwave in terms of his production values and his use of actual field recorded samples gives the tracks a truly authentic feel. You’ll also hear some nods to classic 80s films like Terminator and Commando which was also a nice touch.

Since this whole album is awesome from start to finish, I have chosen to highlight my personal picks. What I like about Robin’s style is he creates a true soundtrack experience while still allowing the individual tracks to be enjoyed as standalone pieces of music. This is something that sets this release apart even from the movies and soundtracks he takes his inspiration from.

'Don’t Call me Hero' is definitely the title music of the album and sets the tone for an epic adventure. What impressed me first was the scale of this track. Starting out with a percussive heartbeat reminiscent of The Terminator, the pace quickens with synth brass and horns that blare the heroic main theme.  And if your mind was not already blown, the track gets even bigger during the theme reprise when the orchestra widens with deep staccato trombones and strings. This song is so awesome, listening to it would make watching videos of an old lady walking a dog into an epic event. 

In 'Dragon Breath' the hero sets his sights on his mission and begins his road trip through the abandoned highways of the post apocalyptic cityscape. After an emotional conversation with his lady partner, she decides to come with him on his adventure and maybe even get some revenge of her own. With her arms wrapped around his waist, they ride an armour plated motorcycle through a light sandstorm. The blue lights of the Robot city shine through the orange haze. 

With the track 'Interceptor' we hear some James Horner influence from Commando with the horns and steel drums. But what sets this apart from the actual Commando soundtrack is this is just a kick ass song to listen to. While I enjoy the Commando soundtrack in context, listening to it without the film isn’t quite as enjoyable experience. 'Interceptor' takes that vibe and distills it down to two and a half minutes of greatness. John Matrix would be proud. This is the sort of track that makes you want to eat green berets for breakfast.

What I love about “Fireside Remembrance” is the way the reverb of the solo horn sounds as though I am sitting in on a recording session as Robin is playing. There is something very present about the sound in this one giving it an almost live feel. For one brief moment on this journey we get a glimpse into the studio. The tune of the processed electric piano truly evokes the title. The hero tells his partner the story of how he came to be mixed up in all this. A story of love and loss. When the tale is done, his partner has fallen asleep. For now there is a brief peace before the danger ahead.

'Faces of War' is obviously inspired by The Terminator but unlike Power Glove who, in their Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon soundtrack, emulated The Terminator in an almost “sound-a-like” fashion, Robin takes the inspiration and elevates it into a full on epic sound with horns and stabs and makes it something greater. A slowly increasing tempo adds to the tension of this track with a series of ascending orchestra hits that lead to a reprise of the theme. A small victory for our Hero in a tumultuous battle.

'Negotiations Over' is probably the most “songy” track on the album with a consistent dance beat. Although the track 'Mission Complete' is labeled by Robin as the end credits, my personal interpretation is that this track would play at the start of the credits. For me, this parallels Vangelis’ dancey Blade Runner end titles. A reprieve from the twisting and turning of the rest of the tracks, 'Negotiations Over' let’s you breathe while still delivering the scale you’ve come to expect form the rest of the album. And while being slightly anachronistic to the rest of the album, I thought the glitch-hoppy moment in this track was really cool.

The bottom line is that Robin, as a musician keeps getter better and it’s been my pleasure to not only enjoy his music as a number 1 fan, but to count him as one of my first friends in the synthwave scene. While I chose to write about these particular tracks, I enjoyed 195 completely and simply didn’t have the time to write a novel detailing every track. I’m sure once you check it out you’ll have favourites of your own. 

195 brings a sense of scale which is not often heard in much of the synthwave scene. The high end production values along with the use of many interesting sounds and unique samples truly sets this apart in the synth soundtrack genre.

195 is presented on OGRE's Bandcamp here in digital formats as well as limited edition cassette. This record is a great achievement and comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM. Run to Bandcamp and pick up 195. It is awesome. The end.

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