Published Aug 06, 2019Sheffield's CPU label has been releasing quality electro for a while now, and a few tracks into this compelling debut EP from Biochip (Melissa Speirs and Julian Kochanowski), it's easy to see why they snapped up this promising Montreal duo. Synthase is a tight, focused dose of acid-tinged electro with a darkly ominous current running through it. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it sets it spinning smoothly and confidently in a way that should satisfy fans of slick, well-produced techno.
Those expecting more of the driving intensity of advance single "Dusty Dossier" may be a tad disappointed that only one other track shares a similar BPM (the excellent subterranean tunnel ride "Acid Billy"), but the duo's blend of ominous synths and iced-out funk carries over just as well to mid-paced tempos.
"Simulated Events" is an early highlight along these lines, with a condensed arpeggio chirping away in the background that takes centre stage at the end for some cool, on-the-fly knob twiddling (everything sounds quite live and analog). There are hints of old-school IDM/braindance as well on cuts like "Frame Shift" and "Tone Forest," the latter featuring a sprightly bass line taken straight from the AFX playbook.
If there's any real criticism to be made, it's that Synthase may come off as a little too monochromatic, but it's in keeping with the style, and at eight tracks with nothing over five minutes, it presents as a pretty professional and well-considered package.
At times it comes across as the less aggressive cousin of Paula Temple's recent dark techno odyssey Edge of Everything, especially when certain low-end, metallic tones arrive on "Information Superhighway." That album also threatened to lose itself in a sea of greys sometimes, but its highlights were such that they perhaps wouldn't have been achieved if Temple hadn't gone all in on her vision.
Something similar is going on here, and a large part of the appeal of Synthase is the focus and control on display from Speirs and Kochanowski — impressive for a first outing. (CPU Records)