By Rick Shithouse
In a recent conversation on Synthetix Sundays with my sybling in synth Marko Maric we were discussing the pros and cons of releasing albums and how an album really needs context to hold it together, along with the interest of the listener. And when there isn't this thematic the album can often lose direction and focus, often leaving me, personally, wondering whether it may have worked better split over two or more EPs.
Albums are wonderfully enigmatic entities. An album can capture your imagination and take you on a fantastic journey guided by the music's flow and artistry. The magic making that album work as one over arching concept is something I always find completely enrapturing and for its duration I feel I'm being let into someone elses world and allowed to see and feel their creative soul.
Its funny how a few succinct lines of text can change one's outlook entirely on an album experience and in Meteor's Parallel Lives the preface given literally ties the entire album together. I quote: "This album is a compilation of stories told through songs, each one representing a line, a character with different experiences to others but coexisting in an infinite space, full of human beings with parallel lives." With these words Meteor gives a wonderfully auspicious premise to the music one's about to listen to.
The individual personalities are what separates and at the same time joins the twelve acts of Parallel Lives into an entertaining and illuminating story of lives and emotions of this dimensions inhabitants. Experiences and emotions play out in chapters that are descriptive and full character; all played out against a shared backdrop; unrelated by circumstance but intrinsically linked on a deeper level.
Meteor launches into the grey concrete night with 'Escape The Fate' which really draws broad strokes at illustrating a wider scene before focusing in tightly on the human plight. There's a chasing panic in the canter of the rhythms. An element of intrigue runs through the atmosphere and the smoothly swelling synths mask the rush and energy of the totally rockin guitars. The drama ramps up massively towards the end as the protagonist finds some refuge and a calm returns.
The opening tracks instantly bring a depth to the sound and widen out to a massive vista that Meteor then closes in on for tight shots. I imagine a wide shot of a city at night, with the camera zooming in closer and closer until the individual comes into clear focus and we watch their story unfold before zooming back out again to the wide shot before the next track.
In this respect Meteor gives himself license to deeply explore some concepts in a purely singular way, track by track. Painting in the characters and details with enough dexterity to ensure the listener is never disconnected from the experience. When things start getting super intense on 'Destroyer' Meteor is sure to give the Slash Electro energy just enough current to inflict pain but pulls back to allow the uplifting guitars to bring some beauty back into the picture. The story in this track in particular has an element of danger that seems to lurk around every corner but there always seems to be an escape route that pops up in the nick of time.
The arrangement of the chapters themselves is another strong suit of Parallel Lives as Meteor always makes sure there is differentiation between tracks, be it in intensity, melody or emotion. The cool and placid 'City Lights' is a gorgeous piece of airy synth wonder that's as contemplative as it is captivating. Meteor's use of more traditional 70s prog elements in his guitars and synths lend a rich flavour to the more obviously 80s elements. The combination rocks like nobodies business in nearly all the chapters at one stage or another but it is impossible to deny the raucous retro magic that coalesces in the epic 'Hunter Of Lost Souls'. Using the guitars as the driving force of the track allows the synths to vocalise as delightful accents against the pure bombastic rocktastic riffage.
The titling that Meteor has used is yet another part of the experience that gives the listener just enough of a set up to take in the impending scene. 'She Has A Gun' is a wonderful example of this as a hugely Miami Vice themed passage illustrates the pool side show down under a moonlit night as the protagonist seeks vengeance above the law. But it's the heartfelt synth melodies that bring the haunting loss into the forefront of the story. Rising above the anger and giving a beautifully humanistic hue to the climactic scene.
Meteor's action packed passages are definitely one of his most adept disciplines throughout Parallel Lives. When not opting for all out OutRun chase sequences he deftly manoeuvres into a high energy mode that brings the action on for all comers. 'Defender' even adds just a little ChipTune flavour to the already delicious perilous adventure, giving the track the extra layer of personality and charm.
But it's always the balance and context that rocks the story along. After the intensity of 'Defender' we have 'White Crows' saunter out of the misty streets in a beautifully constructed story that really shows Meteor's aptitude on all his instruments. This is one of the few producers who can make a one man album feel like a complete band experience as the instruments all genuinely attain their own personalities and styles. The depth of the presentation and the details in each passage shine on every layer of the production.
Crafting all these Parallel Lives shows much of Meteor's passion for the musical nostalgia we all crave, but the modern elements are kept in a dutiful balance too. In 'The World I Left Behind' the tearing bass provides just a enough contemporary distinction below the retrolicious synth swell. The balance of the new and old feels just right on all the pieces as Meteor experiments with 70s, 80s and modern techniques without losing the melodic soul of the music.
The final tracks of the album do some wonderful little reprises of some ideas presented in the opening tracks. Like a background character from scene now given their own story after witnessing that original narrative. The familiarity is never too obvious or heavily worn but little pieces of musical continuity draw you even more into Meteor's descriptive little universe. The final track, ironically titled 'Prototype' gives a feeling of completion as an upbeat and enthralling credit roll that hints at even more links between the separate stories.
Meteor presents Parallel Lives on his Bandcamp here and this really is an album that stands up as a true full length experience. I've been taken entirely into Meteor's imaginative world in every track on this record and the structure is so strong that it demands to be listened to as one complete experience. I hope you too find delight in the twists and turns of Parallel Lives as it comes very, very highly recommended from Synthetix.FM.