Ah yes, the elegiac mode in UK electronic music, elegantly pining for fugitive raves past […]
Ah yes, the elegiac mode in UK electronic music, elegantly pining for fugitive raves past or childhoods overgrown with lush Radiophonic vegetation. In a hauntological landscape peopled by standbys like Burial, the Ghost Box label, and more recent phenomena like The Death of Rave imprint and Lee Gamble’s ghosted jungle-mixtape collage Diversions 1994–96, the comparatively artless emotion of Synkro‘s music stands out, even while cautioning that it might not age so gracefully. Where the artists mentioned above, in the way they return to various strains of electronic music to mourn and attempt to recover the unrecoverable, might be accused of navel-gazing through the lens of a critical apparatus, Synkro does so without the same built-in conceptual safety net, calling forth feelings both more obvious and more pressing.
His latest release for R&S imprint Apollo, Acceptance, is a meaty, eight-track EP that does away with the interpersonal dynamic suggested by his earlier Broken Promise. Acceptance is Joe Synkro addressing himself: a solitary, introspective collection of prismatic 2-step shot through with the lonely and hard-won spiritual triumph of the jilted—vibe-wise, it’s easy to imagine it as a novella-length epilogue to Deadboy’s “U Cheated.” Even if we imagine, say, Burial to be a loner, his music has a kind of tribal nostalgia, the sense of being temporally and spatially separated from your brethren. Synkro’s sense of loss is personal, sentimental, and—as spelled out by the title—the source of what feels like a durable inner peace. Yes, this is new agey.
A bittersweet, soft-focus tone rules the EP, with moments whose basic sentiment might not be out of place in a life-insurance commercial. As tracks like the dulcet “Disappear” unfold, however, we also see him dig a little deeper, summoning a jittering riff made from wisps of guitar. The production in general is either cleaner or the feelings it meditates on more spacious—either way, these tracks feel unhurried and crisp, with a palpable sense of perspective. Elliptical vocals hover like an apparition over the relaxed drum patter of “To Be,” and feel like jigsaw pieces as they bob in the ethereal ambience of “Recognition.” Using vocal snippets in this way is far from unique, but rarely do they feel as much like bits of the past that don’t fit together any longer. But, like the songs on Broken Promise, these reflections are met by the opposing force of sinewy, snapping riddims, and Synkro generally does an excellent job keeping things from being merely pretty. “Mutual Divide (feat. Indigo)” suffers because drums are an afterthought to its post-rock guitars’ cautious, labored twining. Done right, those drums are a backbone sturdy enough to carry even something as immoderate as the Don Henley slide guitar of the concluding “Don’t Want.”