LV-426 is the darksynth project of producer Justin Peeler. Peeler hails from Brantford, Ontario and has been writing music for LV-426 for a couple of years now. He recently released his first full-length entitled “Shadow Runner” on June 19th, 2020.
The cover art work is a stylized rendition of a pre-covid photograph of a back street in Shinjuku. I won’t drop the address of this location—but it wasn’t too difficult to find considering Osteria Oliera is there in plain view. The photo is quite nice, and captures a typical evening on a somewhat busy street. If Chiba City from Neuromancer was an actual place, it might look something like this.
“Shadow Runner” isn’t what I would describe as normal “to-be-expected” darksynth. There is nothing earbustingly loud or shiny about this release. “Shadow Runner” is completely devoid of soft-clipped basses, tropey overused audio drops, or popping drums. And honestly speaking, the mere fact that “Shadow Runner” does none of this is what makes it charming. “Shadow Runner” may lack saturation or walls of deafening sound, but it makes up for it (in spades) with HIGHLY original and unconventional song arrangements. “Shadow Runner” has the type of underground grit that I just don’t hear all that often these days. Part of this might be experiential, but don’t hold that against LV-426. There’s goodness to be had here.
Every song on “Shadow Runner” is both worthy and wonderful. That said, there are a couple of songs that really stuck out to me. The first of these being “Tokyo Cyber Squad.” How can I describe this? Think of a darker heavy metal band like Hypocrisy and their song “Inseminated Adoption.” Now replace the guitars in that song with a saw bass that roughly occupies the same space as a guitar post-EQ. It’s sort of like that. This isn’t a song meant for dancing. It’s meant for banging one’s head. The next track that stood out to me was “Fail Safe.” This a very WEIRD track—rhythmically. But not so weird that it’s impossible to appreciate. Like “Tokyo Cyber Squad,” this is meant to make you bang your head. I don’t think “Fail Safe” will appeal to everyone. In fact, I think that most darksynth listeners will be put off by it due to how disjointed it feels. To those brave souls who are willing to appreciate it, there’s something quite special here. It’s my favorite cut off of the entire album. Finally, “System Collapse” sort of combines the sensibilities of both aforementioned songs. This is a dangerous in an edgy YM2612 sort of way. It reminds me of early 1990s BGM battle music, you know, the type of earworm you might hear in an action platformer on the Megadrive.
In general, what “Shadow Runner” does really well is to capture a cyberpunk atmosphere without trying to sound like Perturbator or the Blade Runner soundtrack. What we’re left with is a back alley interpretation of one individual’s unique vision of what cyberpunk looks like to them. Now whether or not this is by design, I’m not entirely sure. What I tend to think, at least in my head cannon for this album, is that Peeler made creative choices with “Shadow Runner” that were entirely his own. The result? An album that offers up rich originality via unusual sound choices, the occasional weird song structure, and a dry dynamism that gives no fucks about what everybody else is doing.
This is a great release, with a lot of heart, and a distinctive creative edge that shines because it’s just doing its own thing.
RECOMMENDED FOR: The adventurous darksynth/cyberpunk listener looking for something different.
Stand-Out Tracks: “Fail Safe,” “Tokyo Cyber Squad,” “Regroup,” “System Collapse” (this song sounds like a Megadrive boss theme).
Album Color Profile: #512E5F
You can find all things LV-426 at https://lv-4261.bandcamp.com/