Embryonic is an electronic producer from Montréal, Quebec. Their music is best described as a combination of Dreamwave, Retrowave, Spacewave, with a dash of Vaporwave. Their first album “Terra Navigation Protocol” was released on October 30th, 2020.
The artwork, by Jeffrey Zico, is one part otherworldly, and two parts psychedelic. It features a figure looking up into a hypnotic sky and a dying neon star. The details in the foreground remind me of a vast and desolate sci-fi landscape. It wouldn’t be out of place in a Rick and Morty episode, or in Heavy Metal magazine. I quite enjoy the visuals here, but I think the yellow and blue color scheme is slightly too bombastic/loud for the soothing sounds that lie within “Terra Navigation Protocol.”
Amidst the backdrop of ambient pads and breathy atmosphere, the first thing that stuck out to me about “Terra Navigation Protocol,” was the wind. Oh goddess, there’s so much wind on this album. There’s also a tasteful implementation of shoegaze style guitars present throughout parts of the the album. If I had to describe the visual that this entire album gives me, it’s like watching dry ice sublimate.
The intro track, “Tales of Pilgrim and Exiled,” begins with a metallic sort of energy. It slowly eases into a space more akin to proper Dreamwave–complete with faded subtle pitch bending here and there for effect. This track feels like floating above a lifeless wind tunnel above a far-flung planetary body. “Tales of Pilgrim and Exiled,” shows off a little bit of what “Terra Navigation Protocol” does, and serves as an awesome opening which leads into the first proper track, “Empty Chrysalis.” “Empty Chrysalis” doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to getting into the thick of what it’s trying to accomplish. Everything, the drums, guitars, pads, and low end are all present from the moment the track begins. As I close my eyes I see flashes of light pass before my eyes transitioning from one time of my life into another. At around 2:20 there’s a neat distant guitar tremolo carrying the spacey vibe of this song further that reminds me of mid-2000s atmospheric black metal.
“Deadform” enters with a cold set of pads that remind me of a spiritual awakening in a way. Like, you know when you think you have everything in life figured out and then the gods send down a little reminder that you don’t? That’s what this song sounds like to me. There’s not much guitar here, but it does make an appearance at the end of the track that brings the song to a satisfying resolution.
“De Valore Doloris,” (aka my favorite track from “Terra Navigation Protocol”) channels a starry sort of epicness that reminds me of Hans Zimmer’s work on “Interstellar.” This song feels like watching the complete life cycle of a person from womb to tomb. It all feels quite sad when you really think about it. The feeling that this song stirred up within me wasn’t unlike having to say goodbye to someone you love for the last time. The plucky, harp-like synths here sit well within the spacious and (once again) windy vibe going on here.
Up next is the title track, which revisits some of what “De Valore Doloris” is doing, with guitars being front and center for most of the track. “The North Star,” combines sparkling keys with a post-synthwave thematic structure that slightly shifts halfway into the song. Images that came into my head for this song include watching a fledgling android stumble out into the world for the first time, only in reverse. “Stranger” opens with a high pitched blurry sort of bell that feels watery and dangerous. The Juno-esque pad present on “The North Star” makes its return as a texture that bridges the gap between the breathiness of this track and the guitars in the background towards the center of the song.
“The Candor Rift,” which is my second favorite track from this album, reminds me of the title track a lot, only better. It’s slow, plodding, and chock full of guitars. There’s a nice lead that enters in at 1:56 that serves as a pseudo-guitar solo due to where it sits in the mix. At 3:04 a slow arpeggio enters and quietly leaves. Images of floating out in a lonely, cold, dark space bombard me whenever I listen to this one. “Orbiters” channels much of the same energy found on the title track and “The Candor Rift,” there’s guitars, pads, and windy atmosphere galore. Finally, “L’absolutiste,” is a track that could’ve been a good opener for the album, but instead was chosen, wisely, in my opinion, to close out “Terra Navigation Protocol.” The highlight of this track was the synth that comes in at around the 2:36 mark.
Overall, “Terra Navigation Protocol,” is an album comprised of three primary sounds: wet (albeit) clean guitars, breathy pads, and metallic mid-to-high frequency sounding keys. I really enjoy that the sounds Embryonic decided on weren’t used once and thrown away. I think that in order to maintain a certain flavor on an album, that it’s good to pick from a carefully selected palette of sounds. Embryonic does just that. Sprinkled throughout this album are some signs of subtle melody, but for the most part “Terra Navigation Protocol” feels like one continuous thought as opposed to ten individual tracks. Don’t come into this one expecting slamming drums, or a pronounced low end. You won’t find that. Embryonic isn’t about rocking and rolling, Embryonic is about evoking strong emotions. Emotions that want to sweep you away into their wake and take you far, far away…to another time, another planet, another life.
RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Cinematic Dreamwave, and Spacewave,
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “De Valore Doloris,” “Deadform,” “The Candor Rift,” and “Empty Chrysalis.”
Album color profile: #FCE4EC (when I close my eyes I see this color when listening to “Terra Navigation Protocol”)
You can find all things Embryonic on https://embryonic.bandcamp.com/