By Jerry Herrera
Streetcleaner brings us Payback, the story of a lone cop in search of revenge. It seems that these themes surface a lot in our beloved genre, and so it’s tough to find producers who can tell the story without relying on clichés. Too many times tracks are put out there that are merely a jumble of grating basslines and ham fisted synth work, with some ominous retro imagery thrown in. Streetcleaner knows better than this and has never been in finer form. The storyline most definitely comes to life while listening to Payback, and there’s simply a ton of content and things to love on this album.
'Slade’s Sundown' is a melodic, dark electro cruise into the concrete heart of the city that seductively slips into technoir territory thanks to some soulful shredding by Jon of the Shred. Right off the bat we’re given a must-listen track. It’s the perfect intro to an album a lot of us have high expectations for.
'Neon Horizon' sort of breaks the tone set by the previous track but that’s okay. It’s got a lighter, more danceable tone to it, and it’s something I’d expect to hear during the nightclub scenes in either Robocop or Terminator, except no one’s getting arrested or terminated. Just good vibes and sexy synths.
'Nightlife' continues the theme of dark electro dance, but there are some bright elements at work here. Personally I’m a little wary of all the grit and ominous tones that have become so popular. Sometimes it’s midnight in Los Angeles and all is right with the world. About two minutes in the track simply blossoms into a rocking keyboard solo that absolutely screams across skylines. Very beautiful work here.
The outrun continues, as the title suggests, with 'Dark Pursuit'. Here we see some of the darker tones start taking over a bit but what’s really great about Streetcleaner is that he’s aware of what works, or just falls in love with a certain sound, so there’s some sweet synth melodies in there too so that the darkness doesn’t overwhelm.
'After Hours Enterprise' is a short midtempo break from theme and at the halfway point of the album I’m seriously loving what Streetcleaner has done so far. I believe that it’s a tough balance between innovation and giving people what they want. With so many new fans and producers coming onto the synthwave scene, it’s easy to fixate on buzzwords without really coming up with anything new. Thankfully Streetcleaner manages to remind us all of the pure synth joy to be had.
'Outnumbered' introduces the danger to an otherwise fairly upbeat album. The pulsating basslines are there, as are the jagged synths and aggressive drum arrangements. It’s not a bad track and it ticks all the boxes, but it does lack the charm I had enjoyed in the previous tracks.
'Devil’s Due' starts off in such a majestic way that I automatically stopped writing and cranked up my headphones. After an intro that put me in the hallways of the abandoned Church of Synth, I was dropped through a trap door into a spiral of pure sci-fi synth madness. A unique kick and snare, combined with unrelenting acid synth make this a standout track. This is a step beyond outrun.
'Grim Victory' begins in a similar fashion, with a chorus of synth angels singing of impending awesomeness. This is a slower track but it contains amazing emotional content. Drama, danger, and mournful melodies tell the story of the antihero, who may have won but still feels lost. Cruising through the streets, he wonders if peace can truly be found anywhere in the city.
'Daybreak' finishes out the storyline of the album on the strongest possible note and recaptures the melodic, slightly dangerous, upbeat outrun of the first half of the album. The keyboard work here is exciting and beautiful and almost reminiscent of a ‘90s club banger without crossing the line. At the end of the album, our hero decides no peace can be found if he stays in the city, and so experiences the dawn of a new day as he speeds away from a crumbling skyline.
The last track on Payback is the Vip D34D remix of 'Devil’s Due' which amps up the intensity and throws some breakbeats in, just in case.
Streetcleaner is a wonderfully bright and creative musician who could probably explore a lot of different themes with insight and musical depth. This is not to say I did not enjoy the synth story of a cop out for revenge, indeed, the themes of urban decay, revenge, danger and homicide make for great listening. I just believe in the talents of Streetcleaner.
Streetcleaner presents the Payback album on his Bandcamp here in digital formats and it comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM. It is simply a must have for any fan, and while the number of producers continues to grow, Streetcleaner remains a master storyteller and poet laureate of the synth.