Just about everybody and their mother is aware of synthwave at this point, especially readers of this blog: the genre that fuses the hallmarks of modern electronic music with the aesthetic choices of the 80’s has turned from a small niche into a veritable scene over the last 3 or so years. Although it’s been growing – outright exploding, even – in popularity, the scene has yet to see the dearth of mediocre artists that often accompany such hype, perhaps because of its innate idiosyncrasies that make it impossible to create without having that veneration of the original texts by which the genre informs itself. Monochrome, the new album from synthwave act Scandroid, is a perfect example in market saturation not necessarily equaling creative bankruptcy. Effectively melding a more pop styling than the genre typically sees, a la The Midnight, into his music, the project has more than enough unique flair to stand out amidst the rest of the synthwave world.
Sophomore albums always present somewhat of a challenge for an artist given the twin task of building further into a comfortable anxiety and doing enough different to prove you aren’t just a one trick pony. Rest too much on your laurels and see hype evaporate, or experiment too much and see established, excited fans disappear; it’s a nigh-impossible task to walk the course between. Happily, though, Scandroid seems to have found that middle ground – this is clearly present on title track “Monochrome.”
Opening with layers of pulsing synths and a vocoder-infused voice line, the song quickly segues into a short instrumental break before once again highlighting the vocal prowess of Scandroid. Despite having rather simple and repetitive vocal melodies, the track feels large due to the layers of synthesizer cascading over one another in the background. Everything builds into a track that displays a more pop sensibility than the genre is used to for great effect. Scandroid hasn’t done anything here that falls outside the bounds of the typical nature of synthwave, but it’s done well and captures the moody, rainy, Blade-Runner-y vibe of the genre with ease.
Instrumentally, the song feels slick and well-produced. Synths are honed down to exactly what they need to be and nothing more; drums have that quintessential ’80s gated reverb sound to them that lends them weight and punch. At around 2:40, we get a guitar solo that introduces a wrench into the gears and briefly hits the restart button for the song, which adds much-needed power to the last chorus, lending it a great punch. Not enough songs in this genre utilize guitar as much as they certainly could, so it’s cool as hell to hear it here. Everything comes together well at the end, tying the whole package together into a fitting conclusion.
Really, what Scandroid does well is bring a slightly different flair to the meat-and-potatoes synthwave sound that adds different enough musculature and flesh to the familiar skeleton that it’s certainly worth checking out for any fan of the genre. Don’t sleep on this.