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Synth Album Review: "[un]Natural Synthesis" by The r/K Theory

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

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Initial Impressions

The r/K Theory’s [un]Natural Synthesis fills the listener’s ears with intricate sonic detail and boundless energy as he explores the tonal, textural and timbral possibilities of synthesized sounds, weaving them into intertwining structures. There’s many layers and auditory interactions going on to keep me engaged on this album.

I’d say the standout quality of [un]Natural Synthesis comes from the ways in which The r/K Theory integrates the different musical building blocks of the album. The profusion of synth sounds seem carefully chosen and combined to produce patterns and textures that fill the music with complex sonic shapes and intrigue the ear with unique timbres and sensations.

There’s a freedom to the music’s construction, in the sense that The r/K Theory doesn’t hold back in layering up contrasting sounds that run the gamut from crystalline sparkle to dark surge. He judiciously selects from his palette to build up emotional impressions as the synths interlock. I especially enjoy the balance between the muscled drums and bass and gentler, more shining sounds that occurs in some of the tracks.

[un]Natural Synthesis has a clarity to its sound that I also find engaging. Each element exists quite sharply in the audio environment, even when they are combined. The end result is music that allows the listener to pick out the details while still hearing things in a cohesive way. There’s a lot going on, so it’s nice to be able to hear it.

My Favourite Tracks Analyzed

“Cruising the Void” begins with a steady, sharp-edged synth throb underlaid by a solid bass pulse that’s equally hard-edged and pushes the track on. A minor key, melodic pattern surges in on a medium low, nasal-sounding synth cut by a chiming, glowing higher synth instrument.

There’s an ear-pleasing contrast between the glowing light and the more aggressive and angular lower synth sound. A deep piano sound carries a wandering, powerfully dark melodic pattern that has width and a reverberant quality to it as it echoes out.

The dark notes break through the swirling, suddenly floating background into a crescendo and the broad, repeating melodic line calls out again. The note pattern is more shadowed still, descending over the broken sounds below it, as the hard-edged synths are broken by higher glittering sound.

The gritty, lower synth falls downward as the piano-like, harshly bright synth pattern wanders through again, ringing out in shining lines, hammering home a feeling of driven energy. Now the flashing synth, the shadows and rough edges all fade into quiet.

Quick metallic sounds batter and clank in the background as the drums bounce and skitter while interacting with the metallic soundscape to commence “Inferno.” An oscillating synth line wriggles through and the whole track has a mechanistic feel to it. Surging, gruff, medium-low synth carries a darkly triumphant melodic line that repeats over the beat’s propulsion.

The strings sounds that double the gruff synth contribute a majestic component that I find adds extra depth. Flanging, expanding sounds flicker around the main melodic line and the unrelenting beat and sharp bass push it on further.

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The oscillations spread in stuttering ripples while high, mechanical sounds move through. The main melody’s brooding majesty is given a feeling of exultation by the strings. There’s a shattering quality as we get back into the clanging, clanking metallic sounds that we opened on.

“Yüyami” is given life as bursts of shadowy bass flow below shimmering, vibrating synth sounds and the drums add a skipping quality. The divided beat throbs below a steady, swirling synth line moving over the dense bass pulse. The drums become steadier and more gliding while warmer, creamy-feeling synth forms gentle chords that smooth things out.

My ears are pleased as we drift into a section with bright synth stuttering in climbing, sunlit notes that climb. Bass weight and power break in and the drums tap before the other delicate elements are cut into by a round, almost percussive synth.

The synth travels in a shaky line that feels ancient and hopeful while the drum heartbeat ensures forward motion. There’s growing energy in the drums as the broken beat bursts while a fragile, yearning synth wraps my ears in gentleness. The drums skip and hop and the xylophone-like synth pattern burbles before the music ends.

A digital sounding synth chirps in over a cavernous , pitch-dark background along with a quick, sharp throb and liquid chimes dripping to open “The Storm Part 1.” The chime sounds are textured and metallic and an open, diamond hard synth repeats a flashing sound that becomes more frequent over the vast openness. Muscled power ripples under the skin of this track as a solid drum beat moves rapidly.

I enjoy the effect of the drums weaving together the other layers with their constant motion below the circular, bright patterned synth. Shadow-riven bass adds more movement and intensity while the elevated synth is hypnotic and razor-blade sharp over the seething tentacles reaching out underneath it. The interlocking drums keep up their textured movement and the bass shifts in heavy blocks that batter in time to the drums and then fade.

“The Storm Part II” comes into being as soft synth mists are cut by glitchy sonic bursts that writhe in a quick, tortured movements. A popping, shifting synth line oscillates in a choppy line and the drums hit hard in broken beats, launching into the track with a quick motion. Smooth synth sweeps behind gritty electric guitar that growls and fades, adding wild energy. The guitar’s howling melody, full of ominous emotion draws my attention as it echoes and fades.

Smoother, slower drums brush and solid bass throbs low, adding more thunderous power. Once again, the rapid drums shimmy underneath the arpeggiating synths as again the guitar’s medium-high voice rings out, adding to the feeling of danger. Expanding background synths add an expansive motion over the popping drums and the intertwining synth patterns while the solid bass underlays everything.

Solid bass pulsates underneath a distant, soft and shadowed synth to open “Summer Song” and the repeating, active synth adds a subtly shifting quality to the music. I feel myself relax as the piano comes in, carrying a melody that mingles hope, gentle memory and a feeling of dreamy ease over bass weight.

Funky guitar adds more cool to the proceedings while the delicate piano sings and the beats and bass contribute a sense of movement. The piano feels shinier and brighter, carrying the main melody along like sparkling sunlight on aquamarine waters, dancing along to the end of the track.

Conclusion

[un]Natural Synthesis is an album that creates an auditory environment which I find engaging. There’s richness and depth to the layers of sound along with a feeling that The r/K Theory takes his time in creating music that draws the listener into its world.

© 2022 Karl Magi

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