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Synth Album Review: "Skylight Sessions" by Alpha Chrome Yayo

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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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There’s a deep sense of floating peace that emanates from Alpha Chrome Yayo’s latest album Skylight Sessions. His music here is full of cool, soothing sounds but nothing is so soothing that it becomes dull or loses the listener's interest. There are moments of ambient music here as well as some jazz and melodies that remind me of classic themes from Japanese RPGs like Chrono Trigger or Terranigma. Once again, Alpha Chrome Yayo is extending the scope and range of synth-based music with Skylight Sessions.

The first thing that struck me about Skylight Sessions is the way in which a diverse variety of sounds and stylistic cues can form a cohesive whole. A track like Hot Pack is full of jazzy melody and chord changes while Prognosticator's main melody strongly reminds me of a JRPG theme, but somehow the overall float and drift of the album provides a through line that holds these diverse tracks together.

Once again, I am blown away by ACY’s level of musicianship. It doesn’t matter whether he’s showing off his jazz chops or crafting delicate, earnest melodies because he's always doing things at a high level. His ear for harmonic and melodic moments is matched by his ability to translate them to synths, piano or guitar. The integrity of his sound is a big part of why his albums are so successful in my view.

There’s an undeniable intimacy to Skylight Sessions. The gentle, smooth and flowing nature of the music seems to draw me closer as a listener. There’s something so open about the sound of the album that it feels like ACY is letting me into his world, revealing a softer side through the finely crafted melodies and soloistic, jazzy turns that the album takes.

The choice of instrumental sounds on this album is also unique. We have jazz flute, recorders, a keyed fiddle, jazz organ and synths along with xylophone and sax sounds to augment the drums and bass that underpin the track. Somehow all of these different sounds are knit together to produce a rich, full and caressing palette of sound that carries the listener on an aural journey.

My Favourite Tracks

“Kristdata” is full of easy beats, waves of warm sound and jazz organ playing a wandering, soft melody that caresses the ears. This track is smooth and shining with ornaments of glittering synth touching the music and I enjoy the interesting chords that Alpha Chrome Yayo used on this track. There’s a deeply peaceful feeling about the music.

There’s thick bass and a light, bright xylophone notes that flicker in “Broken Sleep of the Clockmaker.” There’s a softly bending guitar that slides through the track along with interesting violin-like sounds. This is a track that is full of layers and washes of sound that interact and twine together to form a dense whole full of light and depth. I also enjoyed the constant sound of a clock being wound that moves through the track.

“Hot Pack” is full of funky tones with that organ and a lead synth that skips along, full of jazzy energy over the mid-tempo, chilled beat. This is the most energetic track so far and I really dug the synth sax that floated out and kept those jazz vibes flowing. There’s such a cool, easy going feeling on the track, but it still has enough elements going on to hold the listener's interest.

In a change of direction, “Prognosticator (Argophrax Theme)” carries strong Japanese RPG vibes for me. The track opens on gentle acoustic guitar patterns and a recorder. The melody is beautiful and has an ancient sound to it. It has the qualities of the best melodies written by Japanese VGM composers like Yasunori Mitsuda or Nobuo Uematsu. That lovely melody is joined by the unique sound of the nyckelharpa (a keyed fiddle) which adds to the mysterious vibe of the track.

The jazz flute that moves through “Tomb Diver” adds an energizing element to the extended warmth synth notes and airy feeling that permeates this track. The flute’s tones are chilled while bright synth shines from the misty haze of the background. I liked how, as the track progressed, a steady beat came in to add structure to the music before extended synth sweeps closed out the track.

“Shinrin-yoku (Forest Bath)” is another track that made me think of ‘90s JRPGs with its earnest melody and fun fusion riff played with a unique stringed instrument sound. The melody is catchy and gentle as it moves over a background of bell-like sparkles and what honestly sounds like a SNES/Super Famicom violin sample. Again I was taken by the vibes that Alpha Chrome Yayo created on the track.

The depths of space and a steadily pulsing signal open “Io Rises” as a dreamy melody flickers and glows out into that space. There’s a feeling of drifting on solar winds in this track and it has a contemplative air about it. A melancholy quality infuses the melody carried on those sweeping winds and the drums pulse in to provide a steady anchor point for the other musical elements. This is a track full of aching and yearning feelings.

Verdict

Alpha Chrome Yayo has once again extended the boundaries of current synth-based music. Skylight Sessions is full of flowing ease, well-crafted melodic moments and an interesting palette of sounds that engages the listener while still allowing them a chance to ease back in their chair, close their eyes and drift away from the world’s weight for a while.

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