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Liquid Crystal Daydreams

Album Review

Liquid Crystal Daydreams by Electron Odyssey

Author: Cocaine for Toothaches

One thing that stuck out to me from the first time I put this album on was the stirring together of eras in this gumbo pot called Liquid Crystal Daydreams by acclaimed artist Electron Odyssey.  Let us all be genuine here–this is a 1980’s-style synthrock album:  but is it?  Even starting with the artwork- a nod to surrealist decades past but with 1980’s-style coloration and lighting.  The cover features a cube which is truly well-gleamed, half-surrounded by random objects on a glass floor.  Clearly there is a notion here to the otherworldly divination of representation of meaning of seemingly random objects that appear in dreams.  Or maybe it just looked neat.

  From the offset, “Empty Heart” is very 1980’s-oriented, with its synthesizer textured seasonings, dramatic rising 3-chord resolving progression flavor base (set forth with a moog-style bass and outlined with bells) and crying guitar on top for garnish.  But once the track gets into its groove, even the robotic voices (which clamor 80’s sci-fi) can’t totally hide the new chord progressions contained in the stockpot within.  The structure here now calls back to 70’s prog-rock, and even some of these later synth sounds are more akin to Rush or Genesis than Duran Duran or Depeche Mode.  This blend of ingredients gives a layer of flavors that is unique to this album, and sets it apart for others in this scene.

The instrumental “Mach 20” starts with an acid synth bass laying down the groove, thus throwing in another time machine curve ball.  The guitar leads here, which are truly outstanding, wander away from stereotypical 80’s pop/rock and tip their prog-rock/80’s neo-classical hand with choices in scalar movement and melodies.  The guitar tone itself is top-notch—crying, bending, soaked in delay and reverb, staying in the top register to have it really cut through the dense bottom half of the mix.  Because of the atmospherics, the detail of some of the fast runs gets lost in the melee of all the elements that are playing, but apart from that it’s a well-crafted track.

“I can’t get over how many of these tunes would seem perfectly natural in a sci-fi movie setting”

King Protea lends vocals to the arcade/roller boogie flashback “Roller Rink Request.”  This drives in an obvious detour from the “serious synth rock” of the rest of the album, as a palette cleanser of sorts.  It’s a carbonated chiptune-inspired dance track, and well suits the role.  The road circles back on the next track though, the mostly-instrumental “Fundamental.”  I can’t get over how many of these tunes would seem perfectly natural in a sci-fi movie setting, and I would love to see them there; especially a movie about dystopian digital/robotic societies.  A lot of the vocals seem, either with production or writing, to be geared towards that, conveying the thoughts and voices of machines.  

“Trip” veers back towards the campy detour, a more jaunty, light-hearted synth-rock anthem, and the key modulation in the choruses only emphasize that. In a call back to the 70s, it contains a drum solo I did not expect.  Most (if not all) of this record, as with many synthwave records, has programmed drums, and I’m not exactly sure what approach was made here, or if this was actually performed by a human or not.  My guess is not, yet it still adds a new flavor, and ramps back in nicely to the chorus at its conclusion.

There is room here for pure 80’s exploration as well, and “The Endless Shore” brings us there.  Moody chord progression, more sparse layering, and a high synth line that mirrors the vocal melodies.  Megan McDuffee’s vocals are a highlight; strong and in the pocket, without too much over-elaboration, and it keeps a beautiful melancholy.  A plentiful quiver of minor-key melodies really set the heart alight, and her voice has just the right amount of lilt and body to fire the arrows.  I thought the synthesizer lead was a little too loud in the second half, and overpowered the bass that was really providing that moodiness that I craved and loved, but that was followed by the guitar lead (provided by Sean Michalec) which seemed to sit much better in context. I would have been fine with just the first half of the synth solo going right into the guitar solo.  I keep wanting to hear this track over and over because of how it makes me feel—a well-done overcast pop piece really tends to set my endorphins flowing.  The synth layers are just right, and I’m left wanting more at every listen.

“‘Tis but a fleeting glimpse, the briefest of respite before returning to a weary planet.”

I view “Turbocharged” in much the same way as I view “Fundamental”:  a mostly-instrumental background piece to a movie, written in machine-person, but “Fanfare for Yesterday” is different.  This piece gently lifts me up, lets me linger among the clouds for a time, then returns me back to terra firma with a pat on the shoulder and a tussle of the hair.  During that experience in the clouds, nothing at all matters.  Nothing has weight, nor gravity.  The stars come out briefly to greet diamonds on a necklace of sky– A place I don’t wish to depart but I must, for I was not made for such ethereal sensations.  ‘Tis but a fleeting glimpse, the briefest of respite before returning to a weary planet.

In “One Small Regret” we get beautifully soft-timbre vocals, especially in the verses.  The vocal melodies are gorgeous as well, and the (uncredited) vocalist executes them very well.  Sean Michalec again provides guitar work, and the axe blade is sharp.  A very nice tune all-around, and it eschews some of the formulaic pop song formatting, which is also nice.

Liquid Crystal Daydreams’ finale is meant to take, and leave you in the ether of the other side with two final short instrumentals, “To The Far Side” and “Drifting.”  Highlights are the arpeggiated guitar lead work on the former and the fretless bass simulation on the latter.  “To The Far Side” has sound design elements that do sound like it’s right out of a movie, giving a full circle to that theory, which is a very nice touch there, alluding to the sometimes stark realism that can happen in dreams; it’s not always just fluffy clouds and weightlessness.  The fretless-bass-sounding synth on “Drifting” is akin to something Tony Levin might lay down for Peter Gabriel in days gone by.

Au fin, I must say I enjoyed Electron Odyssey’s Liquid Crystal Daydreams.  To wit, the outstanding mix of different influences and eras to make a synthrock project that isn’t wholly derivative.  Adventurous guitars, compelling synth layers and outstanding guest vocal features make this one an album to acquire and enjoy, a very good addition to everyone’s collection.   

 

Liquid Crystal Daydreams released on August 26th 2022 and can be purchased here: https://electronodyssey.bandcamp.com/album/liquid-crystal-daydreams
 
You can find Electron Odyssey here:
https://electronodyssey.bandcamp.com/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/7HlUOleQx5PTRTa8LEdaZe
https://twitter.com/ElectronOdyssey
https://www.instagram.com/electronodyssey/

 

 

About the author:  Coke has been around music a long, long time.  As a child in a family of musicians, in-and-around a family-owned studio in the 1980’s, and even having been an elementary school music teacher, he has seen the ups and downs of the music scene and lifestyle.  He plays/has played several instruments including piano/keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, and even dabbled on low brass and drums for a bit, as well as being a bang-average vocalist.  Coke studied (and won departmental awards in) composition, theory, and classical guitar performance during undergraduate work, as well as taught private guitar lessons for children and adults.  He spent ten years (up until the pandemic) as a superstar guitarist/bassist/musical director in the CCM world, before crashing down to earth, humbly surrendering all that non-existent fame and fortune for the quiet life.  He now endeavors on synthwave-adjacent music, working as a shipping boss, and living with his wife and (some of) his six grown children in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA.

 

 

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