It’s been a while since we’ve mentioned FacexHugger on the blog, through no fault of the project it as it has been consistently churning out music in the last few years. However, I knew that silence was going to end when I read the description to his latest release, A L I E N A T E. It fit in perfectly with my recent call for synthwave that’s a bit more nuanced in its subject material and explores ideas, themes, and sounds a bit more removed than its usual fare. The description reads:
This album is dedicated to my estranged daughter Haven. These songs were made in a state of sorrow and hopelessness but the end result has been very cathartic. Parental alienation is a very real thing and it is currently what I’ve been going through. This music has helped me find the strength to fight back against it and not let myself succumb to what has been a very difficult situation.
That immediately set me back. I obviously don’t know more about the story behind this, but the darkness of the album itself as it started playing seemed transformed and even elevated by this haunting piece of background information. Musically, the album is very much of the “dark synth” variety, relying on chunky tones and breakneck beats to evoke the kind of gloomy and melancholic feeling which synthwave is so good for. But instead of, once again, grounding its imagery in a dystopian city or a darkly clad hero, A L I E N A T E goes after a more emotional narrative. Its abrasiveness, sometimes even expressed in dub influenced touches in the depths of its bass-heavy tones, communicates not a bleak retro-future but a landscape of the heart, a desperation for connection and for validation.
This makes the release far more harrowing than other, arguably heavier, releases. It’s not just about the tone of the music being made or the textual/biographical context given before the album any begins. Rather, it is about a more nuanced and effective relationship between the two, where context that made otherwise be deemed “external” to the art itself (an absurd concept) is inherently tied into the music being made. Just listen to “Preserving Us” or “From Where You Came” and you’ll see what I mean. The rhythm is less that of an outrun sequence and more that of mourning. The synths are less about the future than they are about alienation and a world that’s gone strange. The overall vibe is less about the coldness of a life on the fringes of society and more about a yearning for connection.
Coupled with the fact that the music really is just excellent, these emotional narratives make A L I E N A T E one of the more earnest, convincing, and enjoyable (in a painful, saddening sort of way) releases in synthwave’s ever-extending present. Even if you’re not fans of the genre, I urge you to give this one a try; it has its own, deeply intimate, language.