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Synth Album Review: "Idiot Brain" by Sensoren

Karl is a longtime freelancer who's passionate about music, art, and writing.


Overall Impressions

Sensoren’s Idiot Brain is a heavy-hitting, layered and mind-bending slice of complex synth sound. It’s an album that journeys through twisted soundscapes, exploring a panoply of different tones and timbres along with moments of delicacy and aching emotion. The end result is music that fascinates and challenges the listener.

Idiot Brain is an album that seethes with shadowy power from void-deep bass with jagged edges and huge drums that surge with muscled energy. When combined with more rough and lacerating synths, the end result is weighty and propulsive. The energy the heavy elements provides also adds a sense of direction to the music.

The other synth tones on Idiot Brain run the gamut from fragile shine to ghostly wandering. I enjoy the distorted and wandering synth sounds that Sensoren uses as well because they contribute unique tones and timbres. The album isn’t afraid to take strange, unsettling directions because Sensoren makes them work for him.

I also enjoy the contrast that happens when more delicate and melancholy passages appear on the album. Their desolate, tragic sound is made all the more poignant by the surging darkness that surrounds them. Their emotive power is evident as they trail along spectrally through the music.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Krankenwagen” comes to life as an elevated, tension-filled synth carries a repeating line as slamming, sharp-edged drums throb and a slowly undulating, gruff low synth pattern wavers. The high sonic twist keeps up the tension and the drums pound before breaking into a shambling beat.

The speed of the dense, angular synth blocks slows before the tempo changes again. The energetically moving, rough-edged synth’s seething weight carries on in a sharply shifting melodic pattern cut by distant, high flashes of sound.

I am drawn to the effective way in which this music creates nervousness in me. The minor key, massive synth repeats in rapid motion over laser-like zaps and the stuttering drumbeat before a return to the harder, slamming drums and twisted synth sounds.

A buzzing, medium-low synth carries a single note that leaps upwards as it extends into the music to begin “Ejector Seat.” The jagged, steady drum and bass throb comes in as the quick synth lines fly rapidly upwards at the end of each line, altering the duration and height of each rising sweep. Descending synths fall down to contrast with the upward swooping lines in digital-sounding notes.

Medium-low synth stutters in rhythmic lines while the drumbeat stutters and a continual background swirl of whirling digital sound adds texture. A high, tight synth plays a rapidly trembling line which is echoed by a lower, smoother metallic synth over the pounding drums. This track is a pleasing exercise in sonic contrast and interplay. A steady, gritty synth pulse adds more direction to the music as it slowly oscillates.

Distorted synth trembles more rapidly before the “A” section comes in again. The lifts at the end of each single note are shorter this time around. The piece returns to a shaking synth vibrating over growling bass depths. Quick pizzicato string sounds pluck in over the restless beat and the gruff bass descends far below as smoother notes fade out.

“Containment Failure” starts off as a droning buzz sweeps between audio channels and slowly rises and falls, occasionally fading out altogether. A broken, hypnotic bass pulse repeats and the drums tap into the music. High, buzzing sound gives way to computerized notes that bleep in twirling lines. A distant, distorted piano carries mournful, haunted notes before the digitized sounds tumble down through the music over the pulsating bass.

The painful emotion in the piano notes is skillfully enhanced by the impersonal sounds of the computerized elements. Ticking drums descend until a distant, airy sound sweeps through and the oscillating bass halts and throbs. The digital-sounding notes repeat and undulate while the lost piano’s fragile notes sound far off in the distance. The bass drops and stutters below a twisting, minor key line of notes before we fade on bass and drums.

There’s a waltz-like feeling to “Knowledge” as it begins. The music feels lugubrious as dense drums and thick bass pulse while higher synth sounds move in blocky, undulating lines.

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Sharper, cutting synth wavers in above the track’s ponderous motion. A gentler, warmer synth carries the delicate, melancholy melody. There’s a pleasant balance between the heavier and lighter elements in the music here.

Gigantic, sharp edged synth slabs move powerfully. Swirling synth plays an aching melodic line over the more rapidly slamming synth underneath as a nervous, tension-filled arp whirls out a warning line over the stuttering, broken synth pulses below it and a round, resonant synth takes up the shifting, rhythmic pulse and again the pained-sounding and emotive lead synth swirls sadly.

“Salon Radio” opens as a ghostly synth drifts out in fragile lines that tremble slightly over the shaping, energizing bass and drum throb. The main melody sings out, feeling gentle and light over the angular weight underneath it. Sparkling synth floats in light-filled, metallic shimmers over the steady drumbeat as it guides the music.

I am enamoured of the hopeful feeling within in the haunted main melody and the way that the vocal-synths add an ethereal quality. The massive drums and gruff bass oscillate and the airy, caressing synth flutters easily in contrast to the drive below. The track fades out on swirling synths, bursts of darker sound and shining chimes.

Distorting, twisting synth plays a quick, varying pattern as otherworldly sweeping sounds swirl underneath it to start off “Catching Feels.” Huge, hard-hitting drums throb in to guide the music. Strange synth whorls move below the turning, wandering synth that wavers and dizzily whirls around.

Broad, bouncing synths form an almost triumphant pattern that leavens the disquieting distortions. Nasal synth spins in tight lines and sweeping notes bend before the bouncing synths pulse in divided sections. Higher synths dance and undulate into quiet as the track closes.

“Sausage” commences as gruffly glowing sonic pulses descend under a tumbling, expanding synth with a medium-low sound. The music accelerates into a leaping charge that is full of intense energy as it reaches out to pull the music forward. The synth cascades in falling lines while the lower sound is distorted and quickly throbbing below it.

The tempo drops back into slower sonic curlicues over the nasal, writhing depths in an ominous-feeling motion. Chunky synths again give way to the propulsive movement of the more rapid segment, charging onward insistently. Churning, rubbery synth vibrations return as the cascading higher notes vault into an oscillating segment while the drums fade out.

Heavy, blunt synth blows resound below a gentle, cosmic drift while metallic ticking and tapping echoes out into open space to open “Idiot Brain.” Liquid sounds drip while the higher synth has a delicacy to it despite its distortion. The bluff weight of the bass and the massive drums contrast with the lost feeling of the higher synth part. The whole track has a wide open sound and the higher synth voyages into it, feeling bereft.

Disembodied, astral pipes glide along over the bouncing drumbeat’s thickness. The tempo accelerates hard as oscillating, dynamic synth drops and rises in quick lines, adding motion to the proceedings. The drums grow steadier and the pipes keep singing their hollow-voiced lines as higher synth wriggles.

The throbbing drums press on and keep the speed up while the higher synth has a leaping quality as it peaks higher and higher. The bass blocks keep pace as the main synth spirals upwards and we slow in tempo again, the dense weight dragging the speed down again.

The drums reverberate while the pipe-like synth feels wandering and a little remote. The tempo picks up slightly underneath, adding more direction to the music, while the spectral pipes carry on flowing. There’s a move into a more propulsive drum and bass segment before the piece finishes. I am enamoured of the complexity and richness of the sonic layering here.


Sensoren’s Idiot Brain is experimental synth music that never forgets to have a soul.
There’s a feeling of human emotion behind the layers of synth and the digital shadows that descend through the music which keeps it engaging. I am curious to hear what other directions this artist will take in future.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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