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Synth Album Review: "Runner" by Dream Droid

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

Art by Alexander Duvall (Luma Visual LLC)

Art by Alexander Duvall (Luma Visual LLC)

Initial Impressions

Dream Droid’s Runner is a well-executed take on classic Outrun/synthwave that captures feelings of energy, dynamism and the open road unfurling under the tires of a powerful car rushing through the neon-lit night of a retro future city. It may not expand the genre, but sometimes what I really want is entertainment and Runner provides scads of it.

The first thing I enjoyed was the freewheeling guitar sounds on Runner. There’s a rocking, soaring quality to the parts and the solos are especially intricate and energetic. The guitar sounds create an overwhelming feeling of speed and forward momentum that fits the spirit of the album.

I am also drawn to the strong melodies that Dream Droid creates on Runner. Many of them have an arcing, leaping quality to them that adds to the dynamic feeling of the whole album and there are a few that have a slower, more wistful quality that balances out the higher energy moments.

Many of the synths that Dream Droid has chosen for this album have glimmering, bright qualities and imbue the music with more energy and power as they shine through the tracks. They are combined in ways that all add up and produce the classic Outrun sounds that make Runner a fun listening experience.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Runner” creates a twilight mood with night sounds before a powerful car roars to life and charges down the road leaving a swirl of exhaust noise and a yowling engine note in its wake.

A dynamic, shifting series of synth notes and a pumping bass throb move along with a high impact drumbeat. The repeating melodic pattern adds another dimension of energy to the lead synth melody that accelerates forward with intense motion.

The metallic, chiming lead synth sings out over the insistent beat carrying a shining line of dancing melody as the deep bass and drums drive on. I find myself drawn in by the freewheeling solo that is carried on a metallic, medium-high synth that soars in sparkling lines over the solidity of the beat. An insistent pattern of notes chimes sharply and a twisting, snaking line of synth, metallic and full, unfolds through the track before the engine roars again.

There’s the sound of a radio scanning stations before a classic radio voice over and the deep, steady throb of the beat opens “Hot Shit!” The oscillating bass line and a dynamic, angular lead synth melody starts off being carried on a synth with a technological quality. When the lead synth switches to a brassy, trumpeting tone I find it quite compelling.

The angular, dynamic melody flies out over the full, solid beat and bass before big tom hits burst in. The endless beat has real weight to it under a bending, distorted synth with a harpsichord-like quality that carries a wandering solo. The track fades out on bass throb and trumpeting synth.

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“Live Or Die” kicks off with a steadily throbbing beat that pulsates into the track in waves as glittering stars of elevated synth begin to sparkle delicately over a swelling bass line that grows in power as the track progresses. A dense, slightly fuzzed out synth growls into the music in extending pulses as the bass line oscillates and adds weight to the music and the elevated synths sparkle above it.

Under it all, the bass flows on while the electric guitar cuts in, adding another level of grit to the track. I am drawn to the slow, impassioned melodic line carried by the guitar as it cries out into the track.The drifting and lost quality of the guitar wanders through the track as the wind sweeps through over deep bass. The drums hit again along with slowly turning arpeggios and bright flashes of full, brassy synth that echo out into the music.

There’s depth and heft to the massive retro drums that bring “Club Vector W8” to life as swirling clouds of synth coalesce into a sharp, medium-high, shimmering pattern that intertwines in glowing lines as the beat presses on. Fun, retro percussion adds extra energy to the track and helps shape it.

I enjoy the richness of the dense, bursting synth carrying the uplifting, progressive melody. A nasal sounding, medium-high synth with a brittle brightness wheels and leaps into the music, flying through a solo that roams and cries out wildly over the pounding beat’s drive and the energetically shifting synth that plays a melodic pattern that propels the music with brightness and that unrelenting beat.

“Hustle For The Muscle” starts out with the electronic grit of the guitar sound that’s joined by a rapidly oscillating, glimmering synth line. The guitar sound carries an intricate, rapid melodic line that leaps into a soaring melody as the solid, pulsating drumbeat smacks into the track.

I like the free, easy guitar sound that still packs a punch as it gives a sensation of leaping forward. There’s a quick break into half time pulses before the guitar vaults onward again. There’s a charging, surging energy to this track as the gigantic, rich drums push on and the glowing, shifting synth pattern rises and falls. The guitar sound carries a taut, intricate solo as it flies through the music.

A rapidly oscillating, tense synth line shivers over jagged, dark sweeps of sound as “Track Knight” comes into being. A raised, nervous arpeggio starts to turn over the flow of airy sound and sharp-edged pulses. I especially enjoy the contrasting synth melody that glistens with a more hopeful, slightly wistful energy. An aching, emotive guitar solo cries out and dances above the endlessly driving beat.

Rapidly whirling arpeggios spin around the beat and a sunny synth carries a melodic pattern with an encouraging feeling to it. The guitar sound makes a flying, uplifting journey over the brass-like notes of synth underneath it. The whole track has a feeling of motion to it and and the blocks of bright synth flash into the track below the spinning guitar.

“Hotline” launches with a classic, throbbing synthwave bassline which is joined by expanding, climbing arpeggiating patterns of gleaming synth. A sparkling chime sound repeats another glimmering melodic pattern over the lower arpeggios and the strong beat. The oscillating bass line is joined by medium-high, brassy synth and the ticking of drums. I am drawn a feeling of gently gliding across a warm summer landscape as clouds of lambent synth float through the track.

The beat guides the music while the synths create a dense backdrop for the melodic synth line that unfurls in an easy, airy glide over the bursting drums. The music drifts to the bass flow and different drum sounds as ethereal, smooth arpeggios are carried on round, full synths. Chimes glitter and move before the surge of the brassy, round synths adds more hopeful warmth to the track.


If you’re looking for a fun, energetic and enjoyable blast of classic synthwave, Runner provides all of those vibes and adds a nice helping of considered melodies and some freewheeling guitar sounds that draw images of a ribbon of asphalt under a car’s tires and soft purple dusk all around.

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