2016 saw Blood Music‘s already impressive and burgeoning roster of synthwave projects grow even further with the acquisition of the Danish Dynatron: the solo electronic project of typically death-metal aficionado Jeppe Hasseriis, who is known for his work in Strychnos, the Cleansing, and Usipian, among others. This latest offering, The Rigel Axiom, sees his departure from a four-year partnership with the celebrated synthwave netlabel Aphasia Records, and was accompanied in 2016 by two digital-only compendiums compiling the Aphasia era in The Legacy Collection volumes I and II.
The Rigel Axiom starts off promisingly with spacey, low-tempo, emotive synth crescendos on the ‘The Tristar’, invoking the atmosphere that is sustained thoughout the EP. Space is a warm and wonderful place in this vision and the persistently slow tempo accentuates the sense of awe. One is also reminded of eighties television soundtracks such as Jan Hammer’s ‘Crockett’s theme’ and the Nightrider series. However, nostalgia is a tricky artistic path to navigate, and it becomes apparent pretty soon that this EP perhaps leans too much on enveloping the listener in warm sine waves and pressing the same thematic buttons perhaps one too many times over its twenty-two-minute playtime.
By the third track, ‘Stones’—another optimistic, futuristic space tune—we know what we’re getting and there are no real curveballs over the course of the EP. That may or may not be a bad thing depending on what you think of the overall sound—which, admittedly, is certainly polished. Dynatron seems to be comfortable and at ease with the controls for this space mission, and a smooth ride and soft landing are assured. The fourth track, ‘Storms’, injects some drama during its intro as interstellar winds rise and descend, but it quickly falls into the familiar formula of the rest of the work, albeit at a slightly more brisk tempo. Closer ‘The Unknown’ is, in fact, very known if you’ve been listening to the preceding tracks, except for a piano tone that wouldn’t sound too out-of-place in a late-nineties trance track (not a bad thing by the way).
The Rigel Axiom is a solid synthwave release that doesn’t do anything too original—though that may be the point. There’s nothing wrong with leaning on nostalgia, but when you see the amount of experimentation going on in Vaporwave, for instance, releases that play it as safe as The Rigel Axiom need to have some exceptional element to stand out to the general listener. This release doesn’t have that for me, but is a perfectly listenable collection of tracks that I’m sure fans of Dynatron will very much enjoy. I do feel, however, that nostalgia isn’t an inexhaustible artistic resource to mine, though it can be a fertile starting point for further experimentation. I recommend Fraiserwave by chris††† and this year’s excellent CLASSROOM SEXXXTAPE by Death’s Dynamic Shroud.wmv as examples of this. They aren’t synthwave releases but show how synth nostalgia can be brought into an album in interesting new directions.
01) The Tristar
05) The Unknown