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Synth Album Review: "Back 2 School" by MicroMatscenes

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Karl has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. He's passionate about music, art, and writing!

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Initial Impressions

MicroMatscenes’ Back 2 School is a beautifully crafted, musically pleasing exploration of the complex mixture of the feelings that fill our lives, especially when it comes to nostalgia and the joys (and pain) of looking back at the past.

His guests all bring their own unique musical talents to bear on the songs, along with MicroMatscenes’ own considerable compositional and lyrical skill. In case it wasn’t obvious, I deeply enjoy Back 2 School. It walks the perfect line between retro sounds and modern production, balancing the ‘80s elements without falling over into pastiche.

Off the bat, the way in which MicroMatscenes combines his melody writing chops and his choice of synths is first-rate. The melodic lines are strong and memorable, a fact which is only enhanced by the synths on which those melodies are conveyed. Every choice enhances the end result.

Lyrically and vocally, Back 2 School works well. The lyrics are expressive and generate strong images and all of the guest vocalists have strong voices and use them to good effect in interpreting those lyrics. The vocal melodies are also strong and engaging, matching the equally melodious synths to produce a rounded end result.

I am also enamoured of MicroMatscenes’ synth guitar sound on the album. It has some unique and expressive tones that help create ear-catching sonic textures and emotional expressions that fit right in with the other strong musical elements that make up Back 2 School.

This is an album that has been very well produced. It has enough of the retro ‘80s feeling to make it work but everything is bang up to date in terms of the sound’s clarity and quality so that the end result is quite enjoyable to hear and creates a high-quality end product.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Classmates” starts with a ticking clock and moves into echoing space before the sound of a school bell and kids escaping is joined by quickly spinning and chiming arpeggios. I enjoy the way those arpeggios sing out over the energetically leaping beat. Harder-edged sounds move in the background before a shining, singing lead synth cries out an energized and positive melody. Like kids getting out of school, it’s irrepressible and full of glee as it whirls over the dynamic beat. A howling, wild synth solo bursts with happy life as it calls out over the fun, fast beat that propels the track.

Funky slap bass, slamming orchestra hits and percussion open “Position Chrome” with the funky bass adding a unique feeling to the song. The drums have such life as they charge on, throbbing and moving under MicroMatscene’s energetic, retro-sounding vocals. Quick shimmering arpeggios move in over the strong beat before the main melody comes in.

I find the main melody so positive and warming as it climbs up over the funky bass, shimmering synths and solid beat. A jazzy, whirling lead synth solo moves in on a sharp but bright sounding synth and now we get a solid drum breakdown before the chorus hits again. There’s another shredding lead synth solo that cartwheels through the track to add more variety.

There’s a mixture of hope, aching nostalgia and positive energy that moves through the lyrics of this song. As it begins the narrator talks about a song on tape that was “resonating in my veins” from the first time he pushed play. Now “we’re grooving to the beat, we’re losing control, with our heart and our soul jumpin’ on every hit.”

Our narrator adds that he wants all the neighbours to come and watch the show because “there’s a party going on, and no one will be alone.” He talks of tasting love and passion “until there is no more” and adds that if the “you” in the song wants the love to last longer and feel stronger then “we will dance on crystal feelings, all night long” as the tape keeps playing their song.

An element of nostalgic melancholy creeps into the lyrics as the narrator points out that “things are never meant to stay” and that the best things slip away. Our narrator points out that the world is getting smarter and faster, so that he feels like we’re out of place. He adds, “I miss the funky beat!”

There’s carefree abandon as the narrator says he wants to “lose control with my heart and my soul” and that he’ll be “stompin’ on the floor, until the neighbours will knock at my door.” Positivity pours from the second chorus that says, “the party is going on, no one should be alone. We will dance on crystal feelings, all night long.” He concludes that “I can stand this background hiss, for this love is a bliss.”

“Postalmarket” kicks off with sampled vocals that echo out into open space and a trickling, xylophone and slap bass touch the music with a fluttering swell of sound. The open, hollow drums move with those chopped-up vocals and the full keyboard melody. The way the funky, jazzy lead synth cries out into the track has the impassioned quality of a sax and I dig it!

The strong, full keyboard adds depth to the music and chiming sparkles of soud shine in before the synth guitar adds its own fervent cry to the music, soaring out over the drums and glowing synths, the nasal, mid tone synth line has a jumping feeling to it along with that rising, uplifting guitar part that solos energetically and then we fade to vocal samples and little flutters of xylophone, slap bass and percussion.

Gentle, soft keyboard notes and shining chimes flutter in to start “Bring Me To You” before Mayah Camara’s rich, resonant and emotional voice moves through the track with the round jazz organ sound behind it. The organ is lush and expressive with a sweep of chimes and bass flowing behind it. The uplifting synths suit the power and energy that pours out of Mayah Camara’s vocals as she delves deep into the emotion of the song.

The drums have a smooth throb and the keyboard is full of richness and caressing sound. It is the perfect level of retro in each segment as the vocal performance is so full of earnest strength. All of the elements weave together to emphasize the overall feeling that MicroMatscenes creates in the music.

Warm, intense emotion fills the lyrics of this song. As it begins the narrator says, “It’s raining in my heart and it feels kinda new.” She feels that something is starting “between me and you.” Her feelings are intense as the lines, “This rush of emotion that I feel, I don’t know how to deal with what’s happening here” clearly demonstrate.

She knows that something’s about to happen and realizes that she needs to clear her mind and brace herself for change in readiness for it. She adds, “This feeling deep within makes me wanna sing!”

The chorus is overflowing with love as she tells the subject of the song that “You put the stars into the sky, the sparkle in my eyes.” There is deep trust in the words, “I wanna give my all. I know you’ll catch me if I fall. You’ll bring me to you.”

She talks of how the subject of the song came to find her and “put everything aside so you could set me free.” Our narrator adds that it’s a unique kind of love, the strong kind that “saves the weak.” There is passion as she says, “Nobody loves in the way that you love.”

There is a deep, intense commitment in the words “I’m gonna give control to you In every little thing I do.” She continues, “With you I’m so gonna stay. Each and every single day I’ll trust in you always.”

Hope and love are embodied in the lines, “If my world is falling down and there’s no one else around, I know you won’t let go.”

Slightly sawtoothed synths join a funkified beat and slap bass to bring “Alberto’s Birthday” to life. Shimmering flashes of chiming synth and jazzy drums mingle with a bass pulse and hot riffs of slightly nasal synth. I like how the funky sound permeates all the elements of the track too.

I dig the bass tone as the synths climb up and over it, singing out and glimmering. The lead synth has more of the quality that makes me think of sax as it solos, full of energy and cool, as its joined by a guitar that howls with intensity. This track has an undeniable groove that sits in the pocket as every sonic element is infused with cool energy.

“Dream A Little More” breathes into existence with washes of caressing, embracing sound as the e solid retro-sounding drums throb in the background. MicroMatscene’s equally warm and emotive voice calls out over the delicate softness of the synths and the drum throb. I am drawn to the way that the panpipe synths cry out in a pattern of climbing notes. The airy breath of the panpipe sound adds to the gentle feeling of the synths as they move over the percussion.

The words here are a monologue about being a dreamer, even when the world tries to strip that away. The narrator opens with the words, “There comes a moment in life, they say, when all the dreams must come to an end.” It’s that moment when it’s time to grow up and leave it all behind.

Our narrator isn’t done with dreams because there’s “so many things you still don’t know.” He adds, “I wanna be here alone until my wings will fly me away from a world so old and grey.” He concludes, “I will not be led astray because these wings know the way.”

Rising keyboards and a howling guitar start “Lost In the Game” as keyboards that emphasize their string-like sound and open, organic-sounding percussion glide into the song. The massive, full drum sound throbs richly behind Roxi Drive’s first-rate vocals. The thick, throbbing synths add a directing pulse to the music as lambent chimes move under Roxi Drive’s emotionally charged voice.

The guitar calls out, full of bursting brightness, as the huge drumbeat continues to shape the music. MicroMatscene’s own voice, also warm and full of energy, moves into the track now and the pair’s voices mingle and intertwine in a strong duet. Riccardo de Angelis' electric guitar adds its slightly gritty, complex solo to the track. There’s so much expression and a feeling of earnest emotion in this track.

A strong cinematic sensibility infuses this song’s lyrics along with a sense of mystery. The song begins by saying that “she hides a secret, only you can figure out” although she’ll never say her name. I enjoy the imagery in the words, “She hides in shadows, street lights calling for her truth, stilettos running in the rain.”

The sense of mystery deepens in the lines, “If only you could see inside her heart, her past remains behind lock and key.” There’s a sense of entrapment since she’s “lost in the game” with no escape. She is “tied to these chains. sealed tight, her fate is sworn.”

Feelings of emptiness and loss permeate the lyrics in lines like, “There's nothing left now, only whispers in the dark.” Those feelings grow stronger as the song speaks of the devil waiting in line while there are “revolving memories of what like could have been, an empty room of distant dreams.” Pain permeates the final words of the song, “No one sees the crystal tears, they only fall when light disappears to set her heart free.”

“On Sunset” launches into deep, funky bass as a trumpeting synth cuts in. The propulsive beat and keyboard drives the track forward, There’s a richness to the keyboard notes that move together as Konstanza’s unique vocals move in. There are glowing bursts of synth and the beat is full of electric energy as the trumpeting synth solo is ultra-cool and jazzy.

The weight of the echoing drums keep pushing the track onward before MicroMatscene’s guitar sings out a full, intertwining melody and the shimmering keyboard whirls and moves over the relentless beat. The whole track explodes with an infectious exuberance, freedom and sense of abandon.

The lyrics here embody pure wild energy and passion, a sense of summer love. Our narrator opens by talking about how they’ll be “sunset riding by the coast” and how she’ll be the copilot in the car. There’s a nice bit of imagery in the lines, “Ocean, sand contain the waves of fiery passion through my veins.”

The chorus has that “Outrun” feeling as the narrator talks about the breeze playing with her hair as they’re “runnin’ on the grid.” They’ll be out on Sunset Boulevard as night falls. Her passion is clear in the lines, “Your mindset drives me wild, I'm falling bad and hard!” The song ends with a strong image in the lines, “The sun is kissing your face. I love the crazy things you do to keep me here with you.”

The sound of crowds, a bell-like keyboard with a full, metallic quality start out “Wherever You Are.” MicroMatscene's vocals come in, full of emotive energy. The vocals move over chimes as the bell-like keyboard is now joined by brassy synths. MicroMatscene’s voice echoes out into the flow of the music while the open feeling of the drums joins the deep bass throb. Bronster Bridge's production here is first-rate.

The lead synth has the quality of a trombone, infused with a jazz sensibility, as it wanders and roams through the music while the bell-like keyboard notes add their own full quality to the song as the expressive vocals call out into the music.

Losing someone that one truly loves is a wrenching experience that is well expressed in the lyrics of this song. The sensation of distance cries out in the lines, “You’re gonna be so high shining bright tonight. A lonely silver moon over the city streets.”

The narrator talks of running away but that it’s a “run to nowhere” because he can’t reach out to or touch the object of his love. There’s pure heartache as he says he’ll never forget his beloved. The imagery in the lines, “You’re gonna be like rain falling deep inside. I will feel the grey and cold, the night will be so long” reinforces that deep sense of pain.

Aching loss echoes in the lyrics as the narrator says, “the light will disappear down in my eyes and I will feel so alone…” He speaks of never finding his place on the “streets that never end” and adds that it “hurts to say never, but there will be no forever.” In the end, all he has left are the dreams of lost love.

Conclusion

Back 2 School is one of those albums in which all of the various elements just work. The music, the lyrics, the guest vocalists and MicroMatscenes’ own considerable talent all combine to create an absolutely pleasurable listening experience that I’m keen to repeat many times!

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