In the post-covid postmodern cyberpunk pastiche that is 2020 just about everybody and their mother has taken to the arts in a last ditch effort to make their hopes and dreams come true. The result of this has been really mixed. On one end of the spectrum there’s high-quality “didn’t bother to write my own music” garbage that low skill non-producers have thrown money at to make their egos feel better. There’s an entire industry that orbits around separating these folks from their hard earned cash. In the middle, you have low quality artistic music that actually has real substance. There’s also the low quality, low skilled producers that aren’t “in it to win it” rather they are only in it for fun—to which I say, hell yeah, keep having fun. And finally you have really well produced music that’s artistic AF. This is very rare mythical unicorn that often gets buried under high quality, low skill garbage. This is sadly just the way things are. But hey, when I discover music like this, I am motivated to share it. Enter London’s very own dark synth producer who goes by the moniker “The Unseen.” Since June of 2018 they have been producing delectable and dark music just perfect for a night drive. Their latest “EP”—it’s not an “EP,” this is a fucking album, is entitled “To Where We Roam.” It released on June 19th, 2020 via Bandcamp.
The cover art for “To Where We Roam” is extremely unorthodox for this type of music. I say this mainly due to it’s color scheme. Just looking at this album, the first thought that comes into my head is that this is going to be something light-hearted and smooth. I mean look at those pastels! Towards the bottom of the image is a figure walking away. They are draped in a scarlet looking robe/blanket/shroud that appears to be swaying slowly in the wind. This is the part of this artwork that is slightly unsettling to look at. There’s mystery there. Right out in the open. Right out in the light. Needless to say, when I pressed play on this album for the first time it wasn’t at all what I was expecting.
“To Where We Roam” is a release that has gone widely unnoticed—which I think is downright criminal. In terms of what I’ve already listened to in 2020, this album is top ‘o the heap. This is mostly instrumental, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just another fancy darksynth release. The Unseen did a wonderful job producing this one. From beginning to end, I was treated to the perfect mix of early 1980s Vangelis/Tangerine Dream mixed with what sounds like to me Jack Wall’s work on Mass Effect 2, only instead of getting one “Suicide Mission” track, the entire album sounds like that. I think that top loading “To Where We Roam” with “Paris, Aimes-tu Les Damnés?” was a solid artistic decision, because while it has threads of what typically is expected out of a darksynth track, it vaguely reminded me of the first time I heard Xasthur’s “Moon Shrouded in Misery, part I.” I think that adding this type of sound to darksynth is the proper progression for the genre, not only because it adds a dreamy death-like element to the tone of the music, but because I think it feels nostalgic, albeit not in an eighties sort of way. “Veiled Silhouettes on the Dunes of Dubai” reminds me a lot of Keiichi Okabe’s compositions on both the original “Nier” and also “Nier Automata.” It’s dusty, atmospheric, oppressive and breathy. It stands out as one of the album’s most visual songs, and although it’s a little tropey I like it. “Stargazing From a Train in the Austrian Alps” sounds eerily familiar to the end theme from “Blade Runner.” There are two reasons for this. One, it’s in F minor just like Blade Runner’s end theme. “Stargazing…” is also similar sounding because of the steady arpeggio that continues for most of the song in tandem with lush pads going up and down the scale. The primary difference here is that the starting root note of the arpeggio isn’t C like in Blade Runner’s end theme. In general, I look at this like a nod to Vangelis, and what a nod it is. It’s a great tune. The best track on the album goes to the final track “World, Interrupted.” This also sounds similar to Vangelis, complete with it’s choir sweeps and dynamic percussion clashing with synthesized leads. The greatest moment of the album comes roughly two minutes into “World, Interrupted” with a drastic change in tempo which shifts the song’s focus from a more brooding energy level to something dark and upbeat. This is precisely the type of thing I love in darksynth that isn’t done nearly enough. It takes the overall vibe of the track from a, “yeah we’re not doing so well here,” to “we are absolutely fucked.” This is definitely one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year.
Overall, “To Where We Roam” is an album that was a huge surprise to me. It’s not only just dark, it’s oppressively dark. There isn’t any fun going on with this album. It sounds like the end of the world. And that’s the way I fucking like it.
RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like their darksynth sounding like a razorblade sweeping back and forth in their mouths.
Stand-Out Tracks: “World, Interrupted,” (GREAT TRACK), “Paris, Aimes-tu Les Damnés?,” “Veiled Silhouettes on the Dunes of Dubai,” “Stargazing From a Train in the Austrian Alps” (Blade Runner vibes!)
Album Color Profile: #FF8A80
You can find all things The Unseen at https://theunseen.bandcamp.com/