By Rick Shithouse
Although Synthetix.FM doesn't reflect it in posts, I've been a fan of Vector Hold for a long time. His releases have always seemed to come out at times that have precluded them from being properly covered on here, which I always felt shameful about. Thankfully, that's changed with his latest release.
The Vector Hold sound has in the past been heavily based around the grimmer side of OutRun with pounding, high speed beats and melodies weaving in a death defying chase. In more recent times there's been more experimentation in the Vector Hold sound and the culmination of this is the new album: Night Marauder.
In this album it feels like Vector Hold has really broken all the shackles off of what he thinks his music is 'meant' to be and has instead created fourteen tracks that offer incredible varieties of sounds and influences that span immense amounts of space. Instead of an album that's built around certain themes that then end up being limiters, I've found Night Marauder to be a album so divergent that it's the variety between all the tracks that ends up tying everything together.
Initially I was expecting this record to go darker than Vector Hold had gone before. He was always teetering on the edge of the yawning precipice of pure dark synth and I think that anyone with a background in metal (as Vector Hold has) must be constantly fighting the temptation to go full-evil and lose their 80s whimsy along in the process. But instead, we find Vector Hold embracing all kinds of 80s pastiches that end up showing how much scope there is for his sound to evolve even further.
The one thing though, the one thing, that really stands out on this record. The one thing I wished Vector Hold had done since day one that he has finally embraced is bringing his guitar skills to the Vector Hold sound. And on Night Marauder he has worked them splendidly well into his 80s inspired synth music. Vector Hold's 'other' music project is a metal band and I always wondered why he wasn't rockin his guitar work on his earlier music more. There must've been a bit of a dividing line in his creativity or musical muse, but thankfully on Night Marauder we have a lot of hot riffing and scintillating solos to drink in over his kick arse synth sounds.
With this hugely unconstricted palette to draw from we hear much more soul in Vector Hold's album. Not just in the instrument selection but the actual passages and stories told. There is still a grim and grittiness to some tracks when it's called for but Night Marauder is full of positive, energetic melodies and pieces that I'd be supremely hard pressed to identify that were Vector Hold at all without knowing prior.
We do have plenty of high energy OutRun rockin, the second track after the intro brings in that high speed energy and cranking power and 'Gridlock' delivers those thrills in spades. But then blasting out of the pack with all guitars blazing rushes 'Drifting' as the follow up. The smooth, undulating rhythms complemented by the totally rockin guitars adds a level of high end luxury sports car to the Vector Hold OutRun style.
Reigning in the pace and allowing the melodies to speak and evolve in their own time has always been something I've enjoyed in Vector Hold's music and he's stripped away the harshness of much of these kinds of tracks as they appeared on the aptly titled Mechanized and has returned to the much more aurally vibrant pastures he last visited on his Classics album in tracks like 'Venice Beach' and 'Games'. 'City Heat', 'Pacific Sunrise' and 'Rain Keeps Falling' being really stand out pieces that delicately explore the music with care and grace.
The intensity is still there when it needs to be though and among the fourteen pieces on here there are definitely some tracks that really stand out as being the purest distillation thus far of the Vector Hold sound. Personally, I found 'Pathfinder' to be one of the most rockin and intense tracks of 2015 in general as it gets absolutely everything right with melodies that groove, beats that kill and some left field experimentation that really comes off beautifully, Interestingly too, in 'High Octane' Vector Hold embraces a far more 90s electronic influence in the lead melody and arrangements yet he still keeps the 80s rockin under the hood of beast machine.
The more you listen to Night Marauder the more you'll get out of it. All fourteen tracks have a different voice and a different story to tell and all are beautifully accomplished in their own individual ways. The creativity on this record is to be embraced and encouraged and by creating his own visions without the feeling there's been a preconceived plan has made an album that is most importantly interesting to listen to. Vector Hold's entirely reinvented what his sound means and what it's capable of and Night Marauder deserves your attention and adoration for every fan of 80s inspired synth music in general.
Aphasia Records presents Vector Hold's Night Marauder on their Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digitally downloadable formats. This record comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM and Vector Hold should be applauded and supported for this totally kick arse record.