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The idea of “Awake/Asleep” was inspired by what would eventually become the artwork for the EP itself. The artwork, a photo of a purple, pink, and orange sky, was taken at an earlier date, and when I came back to it for the purpose of creating a piece of art, I myself started to question whether the photo was taken at sunrise or sunset. It was then that I started to think about the many similarities and differences of an early morning and a day ending.
The EP is a musical journey that starts in the early hours of the day, when most people are still asleep or laying awake in bed, finding the strength to get up and begin the day, and ends at the same place it all began, as the listener drifts off to sleep.
I knew exactly how “Awake” would begin before it was even written. The light strumming of high notes on an electric guitar in the distance, like the chirping of birds slowly waking one from a slumber. A gradual build of sound, like the gradual build of awareness when one wakes up. Slowly, the sounds start to come together, and they all combine at once when the synths start to play. And the day begins.
On “Asleep”, I stuck mostly with electronic elements, as they helped best express the feeling of drifting off to sleep, and entering the dream state. The song slowly eases the listener into that state of rest, relaxation, reflection, and eventually, sleep.
One of my goals with this EP was to bring more organic sounds into the mix, which included an acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar, something I really haven’t included on past releases. The result was a warmth and human touch that I think helped bring the day and night theme to life in a relatable way, even if subconsciously.
Thanks to Triplicate Records for letting me explore this concept EP via their imprint.
An almost piercing hum of chords adorn the entrance to the new Synesthete (Sin-Is-Theet) project 'Awake / Asleep', like the sunset-tinged altostratus clouds that adorn the cover of the record. You're immediately plucked from the dark of wandering what kind of experience you're in for by the single most pretty and placid opening melody of 2020. Well, the single most pretty and placid opening melody on Triplicate Records anyway, I haven't been listening to much else. From here on out though, things soften further, and melt like a Salvador Dali clock. Sharper edges give way to woozy keys and expertly laid-out chord progressions. This is a 19 minute golden ratio in the vein of Four Tet's Morning / Evening or Radiohead's Supercollider / Butcher, bottled and distilled into an infinitely rewarding and unforgettable EP.
A reverberation of bells and bendy stabs with increasingly metallic aftertastes lure the listener further forwards through the threshold, stepping into the grand foyer. From the rafters disembodied pads cry out in muted swoops like dust specs in a god ray. The Beach Boys-esque reverb-soaked beat grants form to the intertwining melodies, now increasing in complexity, stopping short of tripping over each other, rather building to a lush crescendo towards the end of the first movement. Guitars soar and take command, infecting the overall musical aesthetic with an organic tinge that carries over to the second half of the record.
During the course of this first piece and also on the next, an astonishing capability for restraint on Synesthete's part is apparent. Given the presumably labyrinthine layering process in his digital audio workstation from the tens and tens of textures interlocking here, the smoothness of the overall music is quite impressive to say the least. One thing that's abundantly clear is that he has an ear for songcraft, and holding the listeners attention fully for the duration of these lengthy tunes.
Asleep on the other hand is the more subdued of the two. At least during the nodding-off phase (we'll get to R.E.M in a bit) wherein an almost lamentful refrain played on the teeny-tiniest, almost glockenspiel-ish keyboard carries the equally subdued listener (seriously it's almost impossible to maintain a sour mood listening to this thing) somewhere dreamy.
Soft-attack synth presses punctuate the middle section, accompanied solely by the dutiful and relentless Tangerine Dream-esque bassline as the keys take a breather. In fact the keen sense on Synesthete's part of when to give his long tunes room to breathe is another asset of his that becomes quite apparent when you take a deep dive into his prior discography. Here, he brings all he's learned to fruition with a solid stop-start approach to electronic songcraft that frankly is an absolute pleasure to drink in, especially when the melody evolves and the sun-drenched pads come in.
Towards the end the pace is picked up somewhat via the addition of a muted clap but it's not about to jostle the listener out of bed.
Indeed the emphasis on the second side tends towards crafting a relaxing environment for the listener to wallow in. Pure melodic good intentions are on offer here; long lush chords on dainty pads; even daintier bells. Every layer wreathed in a warm dusty glow of saturation. It's hard not to finish up listening to this EP with a broad smile around the face, certainly a great choice of record to listen to if you're feeling stormy or a little down in the mouth. The perfect polymerization of syncopated melodies and folksy percussion and string arrangement makes for a genuinely lovely listening experience that warrants playing the damn thing 8 or 9 times in a single day. Go forth and throw your hard earned furlough cash at Synesthete and for god's sake start saying that name correctly.
released July 31, 2020
Written and produced by Dan Dellecese
Mastered by Dan Dellecese
Artwork by Dan Dellecese & Bryan Kraft