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Synth Album Review: SOLDNOTTOLD, "Fascination"

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

Album cover for SOLDNOTTOLD's new album, "Fascination."

Album cover for SOLDNOTTOLD's new album, "Fascination."

There’s something very tech-y about SOLDNOTTOLD’s Fascination album. It has some dark mechanical/technological vibes to it and a sense of being very digitized. Fascination has a stripped down feeling to it which delivers imagery that is more than a little bleak. This is definitely not an album full of lush soundscapes. It has a hypnotic quality with relentless beats, throbbing bass and repetitive arps and patterns that start to create a trance as one listens.

While I wouldn’t call Fascination minimalist, it has a sparse feeling to it. This sparesness creates a deep listening experience through a palette of sounds that is relatively limited, but full of intensity. I feel that SOLDNOTTOLD has been careful in selecting the sounds that are used to generate a tense, technological sensation on each of the tracks.

This is a very cohesive sounding album. I mean this in the sense that it almost feels like one unified track with “movements” to it rather than individual tracks. The tracks flow well together to create a unsettling sensation of something threatening and impersonally technological in nature.

That sense of a lurking threat is well conveyed on this album with the darkness that pervades it. It’s the subtle menace of the bass, the choices of very mechanical sounding synths and an overall feeling of something dangerous held in check delivered by all of its elements. It isn’t overt but definitely gets the point across.

Fascination manages to create a feeling of hypnotic pulsing and a mechanical trance state by effectively using repeating patterns. Repetition might be seen as boring in some cases but the album managed to hold my attention by introducing enough changes in tempo, dynamics and rhythm in the midst of those patterns.

It feels like SOLDNOTTOLD has thought about Fascination’s overall construction quite carefully. The way the tracks flow from one to the next balances their tempo, their mood and the way they might sound when connected together. This resulted in an album that held my attention throughout and kept me wanting to hear the next track.

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For an album to be effective for me, it either has to be melodic and beautiful or it has to generate images and sensations in me that are clear and powerful. Fascination falls into the second category for me. It isn’t an overly melodic, lush recording but it does paint pictures in my mind. It creates a dark atmosphere of technological threat and dangerous forces that are bubbling away underneath the surface of the world.

I will take a look at some of the tracks on the album and discuss the factors that I feel have contributed to the overall effectiveness of the album and the sound that it creates.

The chant-like synths on “Automated” also have a mechanical or technological sound to them. The persistent beat underneath also contributes to the sound of automation. The notes that pulse through the track in waves, varying in their tones and the drum sounds are also a constant pulse. The overall effect was indeed something robotic.

"Exchange” starts off with stripped-down bass pulses that move through different tones. A dark, repetitive synth line comes in and is joined by a high synth that cries out over the top of it. The solid percussion adds structure to the music along with the bass and the dark-sounding synth line.

The combination of droning, moving synth tones along with a misty and ethereal lead synth creates a unique sensation on “Link Cable.” The beat here has a muffled quality to it and this subtle percussion along with that expanding bass tone add a ghostly quality to the track. Overall I felt like this was a rather spaced out journey.

The combination of dark tones, a very technological or mechanistic sound and interesting using of repetition on Fascination contrasts with the more ephemeral elements to create an album that encourages thought and produced a wide range of emotions in me as a listener. It was challenging and sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that in music.

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