d.notive is an eclectic producer of electronic music from Minneapolis, Minnesota who has been independently producing various forms of cinematic music for nearly a decade. Their latest, entitled “Chimera,” was released on January 28th, 2022.
The cover art for “Chimera” was jointly created by S. Soto at Wally Commissions and Jordan Tucker. Soto illustrated the creature in the image while Tucker handled the rest of the layout. When I look at this artwork the first thought that comes to my mind is Zodd from Berserk. Soto’s chimera appears to be coming up out of an illusory city below it. The word “Chimera” is prominently featured front and centered with stylized pink neon katakana behind it キメラ (ki-me-ra). The starry skies and the Tron-like grid lines fill out the rest of the artwork into something that feels both menacing and safe. Despite being somewhat innocuous I like what’s going on with the visual element of “Chimera.” It just works.
So what does d.notive’s “Chimera” sound like?
Well, the word “chimera” is defined in two ways. The most prevalent definition is “a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail.” The second is “a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve.” Both definitions help to accurately depict what’s going on here. “Chimera” feels like a mix of safe producing decisions, while also combining elements from multiple genres into a kind of multi-headed monster.
“Chimera” opens up with a short intro in “Forgotten Futures” which sounds like a really epic cyberpunk movie is about to start. There are rich tones here throughout with a very hefty low end that lifts me up into the opener for the EP “Chimera (feat. Melisssa Medina). Much like “Forgotten Futures,” the title track maintains cinematic goodness which features a tableau of sound that makes use of the entire spectrum of human hearing. The thing I like about this track the most is how strategically d.notive made use of Medina’s voice rather than having her sing a traditional verse/pre-chorus/chorus formula. She is present enough in the song to merely accentuate what’s going on here serving the main break that happens around the 3:32 mark with a satisfying grace. “Opposite Equals (feat. Haribol Attitude)” is my least favorite track of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad one. It’s smooth and robotic. Haribol’s vocals are the primary draw here, and at 2:08 there’s a very familiar TWRP kind of feel to the performance that could’ve been explored more. Again, it’s still a pretty cool track, it is just the most divergent sounding of the songs on this mini-album.
The next song, entitled “Alter” is far and away the best cut off of “Chimera.” What a fucking banger. Opening with d.notive’s signature vocal style, “Alter” quickly returns to the more cinematic stylings found in the title track. The low end in this song is my favorite part which features a sandwich of multiple bass voices and tasteful automation that has a subtle dubsteppy-ness to it. “Alter” is the most focused song on “Chimera” with a pulse that just screams put me into a movie.
The lyrics for “Alter” also hit just right:
“In this future they will build where those like me are killed I shed my skin and take the night.”
I identify so much with this song on every level. There’s an anger and sadness here that embodies something larger than me, or you, or d.notive.
The last two songs on “Chimera” are wholly instrumental. “Retribution” is a straightforward retro-ish instrumental track that makes me want to pull out my fight stick and have salt poured into the open wounds of my weak flesh. It’s a driving track that could easily fit on the thousands of retrowave playlists out there in the void. The final track, “The Ulimatum” features guitarwork by Carl Skildum. Opening with subtle pipe organs and some chill guitars, “The Ultimatum” is driven forward by Skildum’s presence. The mixing on this song is quite cool as the pseudo-metal guitars shine cut through a wall of sound without negatively affecting the rest of the mix.
Overall, I think that “Chimera” is d.notive’s best work to date. Their attention to detail here absolutely shows. This is further accentuated by a well-done mastering job by Ara Adkins. Compared to a lot of stuff in my rotation of the late, I find myself going back to the one frequently. “Chimera” is shorter than your average LP, and because of that it’s highly accessible. If you like well-dressed cinematic retrowave of the highest quality you can’t do much better than what d.notive has done here. “Chimera” is the kind of mini-album that embodies the type of sound and feel many artists strive for but few achieve. I give it a “fuck yeah” out of ten.
Stand-out tracks: “Chimera (feat. Melissa Medina)” and “Alter.”
Recommended for: Retrowave fans, dubstep bros, cinema musick buffs, and people who like to play the living fuck out of Furi.
Album Color Profile: #E040FB
You can find all things d.notive at dnotive.bandcamp.com