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Synth Album Review: "One" by Adam Burnell

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

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Introduction

Adam Burnell’s One is a unique synth-based work that functions as one long, continuous track. It resembles a multi-part piece of classical music with distinct movements that Adam Burnell has defined. I’m breaking my usual review format in order to do it justice and provide an accurate analysis of the music. I will add that I appreciate his approach to synth music. It introduces another sonic canvas on which to paint.

Part I

The first movement of this piece exudes a sense of being engulfed in deep space and overwhelming cosmic power. It has a hollow, open audio space into which all of the other sonic elements flow. The bass alters in frequency and timbre to produce a sensation of boundless depths as it sometimes growls and sometimes rumbles to underpin the other parts.

The elevated synths glow and shimmer against the depths to evoke the distant pinpoints of stars. Strings add a classical element to the mix that introduces another textural component to the atmosphere in this part and as the drums are added, they shape the music and give it structure.

The way the hollow, repeating high synth parts move produces a sense of signals calling out into the airless blackness. As the first movement unfolds, elevated synth sounds twist and cry out to introduce a sensation of tension and worry to the atmosphere.

The music introduces an increasing feeling of growing danger through the jagged bass and the tension held in the brighter synths. There’s a strong image making component to the music as each different sonic element layers a different tonal colour or evokes another emotion on the audio canvas to build up mental imagery.

I enjoy how Adam Burnell has thoughtfully constructed this segment to emphasize surging power, ominous sensations and evoke the vast, cold emptiness of space. He concentrates on combining synth sounds with an ear towards the feelings that they can create in the listener. The way each part interacts with the others is complex but they all produce a interlocking end result.

Part II

A sense of growing energy ramps up in the second movement as the tension rises further. It opens with hollow, varied percussion that moves across the cavernous soundstage while the powerful bass density growls below. It introduces a melodic element with a shadowy, minor key melody carried on a medium-high synth.

The string section creates a more elegiac and majestic feeling in the music as it moves through. The strings contrast with the ominous depths yawning underneath them. This segment expands the sense of danger further with cold robotic voices and the same cosmic rumble in the bass.

The percussion in the second movement is hollow-sounding in comparison to the first part, but is also more prominent. The bass is a tide moving in a long, jagged flow and it has a muscled feel to it that intensifies the shadows that lurk around the music. An electric guitar that comes in, howling into the openness, to tighten the screws and increase the feeling of imminent threat.

The guitar grows and climbs to feel broad and massive as the music unfolds throughout this movement. A piano flickers in to add arpeggiating texture and a feeling of cosmic whirling to the music. As the segment evolves, it becomes gentler while it evokes gigantic cosmic structures drifting past.

I enjoy the way that the electric guitar adds grit and another layer of sound as the rippling arpeggios spin as a triumphant feeling grows. The deep bass snarls and the drums propel the music with authority.

Part III

The third movement glows and glides as it begins, underpinned by silky, rich bass. Sharper, rougher edged synths burst with positive energy and thick synth chords add shine and weight. There’s continuity in this segment with the prominent, powerful drums continuing to throb. This segment begins on a more melodic, uplifting and dynamic note with layers of complex sound that are triumphant.

A sense of potential and hope comes in with this movement and the drums add definition. The pipe organ-like chords add more depth and strength to this segment and the shimmering synths add light. While not overly melodic, there are more moments of it that create a yearning sensation to which I’m drawn.

Intensity begins to grow in this section of the piece with flashing synths reaching a crescendo and the drums and bass driving with more authority. In this movement, the darkness has receded but it still lingers. The drums take on a major role as the movement builds, surging muscle and sinewy strength.

I feel that this segment is quite adventurous and propulsive. The sounds intertwine to produce an intricate soundscape. Glimmering synth textures spin out while the drums go into overdrive. The bass has deep power as it keeps gruffly flowing and the glowing synth elements brighten this section of the piece.

The final part of the movement has a unique drum sound in it and continues the crescendo that began at the opening, arching upwards in a lambent line while more dynamic feelings rise out of it. Gentler emotions hide along with the shadows in the dense bass. The pipe organ-like synths have a victorious feeling to them as the segment draws to a close.

Part IV

Deep, lapping waves of synth are cut by shinier, diamantine sounds as the final movement of the piece commences. The drums are smooth and shifting chord patterns imbue the music. This segment starts to become choppy and broken, but simultaneously delicate. This movement feels stuttering, divided and restless.

Medium-high, round synth flickers and there’s the same weight muscle to the bass while he organ like notes add more majestic depth. Cymbals clash and rapidly dancing arpeggios move in aquatic waves to wash against the powerful glitter of electric guitar. A sense of ease washes over this section like dappled sunlight on blue water.

Fragile note patterns shift over soothing bass. Drums burst again, broken apart while the watery ripples still lap, growing more agitated. Piano adds another tone colour to the overall mix. I enjoy the way leisurely feelings contrast with the waves’ sharpness as they crash and the guitar doubles the synth flares.

This segment exudes positive emotions and a sense of dreaming, gaining depth and complexity as it expands. The music lapses back into cosmic darkness and the repeating, ghostly signal is touched by quickly flickering chimes. Spiky drums burst as the dark energy of the first movement returns with its sense of urgency and worry.

A string section yearns into life, the strings full of loss and tempered with a sense of progress. As the darkness recedes, this movement breathes more and offers a sense of resolution as its majesty grows unchecked. A sense of relief flows from the music that speaks of endings, but also of new beginnings. The exhortation to “dance with me” only increases a feeling of final release and the fulfillment of a long journey through many realms.

Conclusion

One is a symphonic, complex and engaging piece of modern synth-based music. Adam Burnell creates a tapestry of mood, emotion and contrast through his richly composed music. I enjoy it when a synth artist stretches out and tries something new, particularly when it works like One does.

© 2021 Karl Magi

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