Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lucy Disguised In Endless Echoes

By James Mann

Immersing yourself in a cloak of comfort through sound. Traversing the line between dream and reality. Remembering what it feels like to really be human. Emotional. Mysterious. Beautiful. Lucy In Disguise throws a one way ticket in your direction for what will likely be THE sonic and daring trip of your musical lifetime. Through a mesmerizing and captivating journey across a vast landscape of beauty and darkness, this artists manages to redefine the current synthwave genre with such cinematic and atmospheric tact, it’s nothing short of astounding. From downtempo, chillwave, to ambient, even post-rock and beyond, this album pulls so much together for a cohesive and united front of landmark musical achievement. Drawing from a range of influences spanning several decades, analog warmth and room spills over each composition with tasteful and vibrant updates to really create a sound (nostalgic albeit modern) on his own.

I would be hard pressed to say there are current releases which allow me to press play and step back without skipping, forwarding or manipulating. This however, falls into a category of its own and speaks entirely for itself. Impeccable production value on top of blazing and though provoking compositions really makes Endless Echoes a rarity and true treat. Ambitious and somewhat daring, but understated in many respects, the full length album from Steven Romeo (LID) creates a harmonious balance in sound, enticing and capturing the full attention of anyone who loves electronic music. Each track delivers it’s own mood and graces the ears with such finesse, you can hear the inspiration reveal itself through each synth pad and layer. There is an honesty in Steven’s composing that not only captures and embodies an innate talent for songwriting, but also a style that some artists are afraid to show. The results are highly emotive compositions which create so much more of an impact than the average electronic/synth based tune. Mixed and mastered by the synth wizard Tonebox, the production is indeed genius and compliments the sounds of Lucy In Disguise flawlessly. As the name may suggest, Endless Echoes is in fact a lasting work of art that plays in your head long after the music has stopped.

'The Trigger' is the first track on Endless Echoes, and introduces a somber yet beautiful arrangement from Lucy In Disguise. Open and spacious notes breathe for an ambience that is cinematic and breathtaking. Immediately I am pulled into a world away from my own, and closing my eyes evokes such strong imagery and emotions. Already I can tell this is no standard synthwave album, this artist carves a sound and name on his own and I’m gleefully following the trail with Lucy.

'In the Shadows' gives us a taste of the Lucy In Disguise some of his fans have come to know since 1987 (His powerful EP release through Innerworks Records last summer). Reminiscent of AIR and Trentemoller, the atmosphere is minimal and beautiful. After a seductive introduction, the percussion and symphony of sounds kicks in for a chillwave/ambient wave theme which combines elements of analog sic-fi/horror into a spectacular and driving arrangement. Arpeggiated notes float through the open space with each instrument and synths fitting seamlessly. Dystopian and future vibes bounce through the speakers with an addictive and pulsing beat. Playful melodies meander through with control and ease, the LID sound is huge and effortless. What a killer balance to have. I’m sold.

'Endless Echoes' shows a more introspective side of LID. Thoughtful and airy moods saturate this downtempo gem with incredible grace. Tycho inspired melodies layer over one another, getting me completely lost and in a hypnotic trance. A groove based beat keeps a 4/4 rhythm while samples of children playing and police sirens work manage to work their way in for a contrast in sound. I ended up jamming this on repeat while driving around town with the windows down. With momentum and energy behind Endless Echoes, there is a calming sense of peace and chill I sincerely appreciated. A very appropriate delivery and vibe for the eponymous track.

'Velvet Dream' encompasses a debonaire and classy mid 80s sound that I imagine playing through a runway show. (With the highest of in line fashion of course) A haunting lead dances over a driving bass and beat for a truly memorable track that is indeed one of my favorites on the album. I wish I could identify the kind of synth used, but it is perfect and highly representational of that classic 80s sound. Restrained in his delivery but creating such a full sound, the composition and crafting of this is incredible. The variety I’ve heard so far demonstrates so many capabilities Steven possess that enable his music to fit so far out of any box. I just love that, and listeners will too.

Tonebox and Lucy In Disguise team up for 'Theme', a spectacular homage to early 90s world house chords and the chillest in downtempo progressions. Smooth as ice with electro tinges coming through the speakers (compliments of Tonebox), a comfortable and appealing ambiance lies behind this confident arrangement. The Tonebox and LID team are no strangers, as Tonebox not only mastered the album but also has his own project. (who anticipates a full length release coming in the near future, so you will want to stay tuned for that) The two sounds are seamless, and a joyful piece on Endless Echoes that demonstrates just how well these two work together.

'Cloud Beach' is a dreamlike tune saturated in early 90s world ambience. Bright and full chords create and build a soundscape to usher in a downtempo beat which puts me in a state of pure haze and bliss. Wind effects swirl around the deliberate lead synthesizer, as LID slinks into an arpeggiated, glassy arrangement. Hypnotic and brief, I love this sound and sincerely appreciate him bringing other genres to the table. My only regret is that this piece isn’t a bit longer.

'Southbound' is without a doubt one of the highlights on Endless Echoes. With a beautiful ambient oriented backdrop of warm pads, LID launches into one of the most defining and memorable chillwave oriented tracks I’ve heard. Ever. Following suit with 'Cloud Beach', the vibes are similar, yet in 'Southbound' Lucy notches it up with a fascinating and repetitive groove which builds on itself. There’s never a dull moment as the piece steers through an almost transcendent atmosphere and switches tempo and moods on the other side. I am reminded of The New Deal, a live-tronica outfit I used to watch in the late 90s and early 2000s. Spectacular memories as a funky vibe and noodling high end synth bring me back to better days. It really allows me to relive those nights at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC or The Trocadero in Philadelphia. Beautiful. Lasting. This track is simply epic.

'Drifter' switches gears and delves into the emotional and the (seemingly) deepest facets of LID. An almost tear inducing chord progression captures your senses and takes you on a ride as one of the most shining and memorable pieces on the album. Isolating and warm minor chords spill over a mellow and sleeked out rhythm and bass. The track builds upon itself with determination and a sense of peace comes over me. Traces of Moby can be heard as a triumphant sounding synthesizer conveys the sadness and loss in 'Drifter'. What a gorgeous piece, there are so many components at work here. From 80s to 90s and even early 2000s, the range of influences and execution is evident in this masterpiece. LID isn’t afraid to venture into territory with tact and precision. Everything feels so right. I’m lost in space and have never felt so good.

'Signal' continues to drive the Endless Echoes one step further and takes an ornate and complex downtempo beat as the centerpoint. Strongly reverbed synths bounce around and create their own forcefield. Each revolve around so gracefully and yet so freely. There are nods to early Apex Twin with a playful sort of feel….but the music from LID is strongly grounded. Once again, that confidence comes through with each refrain. There is a break in the song where a beautiful melody emerges behind a subtle wall of analog tape hiss. It’s a short but memorable. Pure chills.

*Quick side note: I have made comparisons to LIDs sound with some heavy hitting and memorable artists. In no way do I intonate an appropriation in sound(s), there is just a perfect blend of familiarity and nostalgia that carry me back to my favorite artists of the last several decades. It’s rather incredible, as LID patents the sound for himself with an awareness from past electronic predecessors. A rarity indeed and definitely I felt worth noting*

One very important mention in regards to Endless Echoes are the remixes included by several of the genre’s most capable and stunning artists. Tonebox and Stilz. Each have managed to deliver a signature brand of synth driven music over the last several years that stand far apart from every other artist.

'In the Shadows' (Tonebox remix) is a cinematic and electro masterpiece that really redefines the song in more ways than one. A longing and touching orchestral styled introduction flows with such grace, it’s hard to imagine or hear something so beautiful from an artist who hasn’t already been snagged by the industry for scoring top films. The highly emotive and heartfelt intro yields way to the signature Tonebox electro/crunch wave that pans through each speaker with pure pleasure and love. This guys really does transcend feelings through his music! Spanning nearly 6 minutes, each second is a welcomed one. A blending of strings, warm pads, arpeggiators come together for such a mass effect it’s absolutely an incredible arrangement. Apart from the extraordinary talent of Tonebox, it’s evident why these two not only work so well together, they are also good friends as well. Spectacular and lasting results from two of California’s top tiered artists.

Stilz reimagines the emotional ballad 'Drifter', and launches into number that immediately gets the head nodding and the heart involved. But wait, within refrains he explodes into that signature Stilz pulsating electro styled chop bass that takes the track to another level. It’s amazing he can really bring the intensity and heat but retain the feelings and purpose of the original track. With other releases like Hyperspace Drifter (1 and 2), listeners have learned and respected Stilz’s ability to create atmosphere and ambience along with his driving compositions. It is the perfect blend, as he always keeps you guessing and never disappointed. This addition to Endless Echoes is a lasting one, what a great choice of artist to wrap up the masterpiece Endless Echoes.

Endless Echoes is one of those release you must absorb upon several listens to understand the full genius that is Lucy In Disguise. He is doing something that is increasingly rare, putting out tracks that encompass such a variety of genres, inspirations and moods while appealing to the emotions of the listeners through all around incredible composing. His sound is unique and unforgettable. Each track is beautiful, and stand out strong enough to be released as their own single, but the entire package is what makes this one of the most impressive, cohesive and lasting releases of the year. With so much uncertainty and stress in the world, do yourself a favor. Take the edge off and travel to another place with your headphones and that cloak of comfort I mentioned, Lucy will show you the way.

Endless Echoes is available through Innerworks Records here, and comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.

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