On Synthetic: Season 2, Halifax pop artist and composer Rich Aucoin continues his journey through the history of synthesizers. The second entry in his quadruple LP series once again features an armada of the world’s most rare, historic, and highly sought after electronic instruments. Gaining access to the collections of Calgary’s National Music Centre and LA’s Vintage Synthesizer Museum, Aucoin ran amok on machines to create four albums of thrilling, transporting instrumental music.
Each song on Synthetic: Season 2 conjures a world of its own, combining Aucoin’s melodic sensibilities with textural, genre-agnostic experimentation. The album swerves into action with the wiggling synths and thunderous drum breaks of “Wav” – recorded on the Hammond Novachord from 1939 and considered the very first analog, fully polyphonic synthesizer – stacking hooks like a cinematic training montage as it climbs toward the first of many transcendent conclusions. “Shift” changes course into eerie, frostbitten industrial territory with rubbery beats that bounce like pogo sticks, switching tempos unexpectedly and dissolving into skittering arrays of sound.
The squelching groove of “Pure” brings a touch of ’90s French House, like Daft Punk jet-setting around the world. Six minutes pass in a flash during this playful brain-dance. “Space” is a thumping banger built upon chiming, subaquatic beats that slice through thick drones and filter disco drops. Its passages of extraterrestrial techno tranquility will make you feel like an astronaut floating in the inky void, making shapes in zero gravity.
The warbling synths of “Tech Noir” sing with a strangely human quality, crossing over the uncanny valley into a sonic space that feels comforting in its retro electronic nostalgia. Perhaps this is because its atmospheric sounds arrived via the EMS VCS3 Prototype, used on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon. The jack hammering beats of “Roger Luther” – recorded on the titular Moog directly in the National Music Centre while on exhibit drive its dramatic synths forward at 1,000 mph. There’s a feeling of excitement and danger, like you’re racing down the Autobahn with a ticking time bomb in the back seat. “Lyra”, recorded on a Moog prototype also at NMC, slows the pace with a pensive, watery melody, before the song transitions into heavenly arpeggios from the school of Tangerine Dream’s ’80s horror soundtracks, all while maintaining a hip-hop head nod.
“Prophet” launches Synthetic: Season 2 towards its final destination with ominously proggy synth lines cresting into a majestic, shimmering crescendo. Recorded with the Vako Orchestron – a floppy disc-fuelled competitor to the Mellotron – it feels like you’ve arrived at the gates of a fabled lost city. Finally, “Liminal” concludes the journey with a soft drone, rising up with airy synths and submerged drums that pump like a heartbeat. A strange new world is revealed, yet as you gaze around at the beautiful, otherworldly surroundings, you won’t want to return to reality just yet.
- Jesse Locke