As I’ve addressed before, electronic music has a soul problem. Specifically how do you express the human condition through electronic bleeps and blurps? One of the reasons people can’t stand modern music is because of how artificial it is, and how inhuman it all sounds. And with the increasing awareness of “Industry Standards,” where people will make music built upon looking “Professional” rather than based on self expression–music is losing it’s soul. You don’t even have to focus on mainstream music, even the underground scene is losing it’s soul.
Which begs the question, how do you find the soul in the machine?
Well first let’s ask ourselves what’s the most intimate of relationships we can have? No, I don’t mean about sex, or the guy/girl you’ve been dating for 4 months. No, we’re going to go deeper than that–because no matter what–if that girl you’ve been dating for months says something about your mom, it’s over. So we’re going to talk about family.
Now the thing about family, is that it’s not often sung about in modern music. Now why is that? Singing about a breakup is easy, because we’ve all gone through one, we can relate to it, and if you have the correct attitude it’s optimistic–because as the saying goes, there are always plenty of fish in the sea. Now singing about say your wife dying, your son dealing with addiction, seeing your Mom and Dad for the first time in a really long time, getting in fights with your sister even though you’re both grown adults and shouldn’t be doing that. It’s a lot more vulnerable and personal of a position to be in.
So due to that vulnerability there is going to be a lot more subtle emotional expressions that require a lot more nuance and subtlety. Which is what Acef Stripe exceeds at, and the fact that it was expressed by father and son through electronic synth based music is a testament to their songwriting ability.
Take We Thought We Lost You. The track starts out with this chaotic kind of melody, that like the cover art doesn’t really have a shape; yet the tones of the synth, like the colors on the album art convey an incredibly warm tone. Chaos is a really difficult expression to label it as, yet “We thought we lost you” implies a turbulent emotional time. Remember that time when you thought something bad was going to happen to one of your family members, and remember your emotions. At first the anxiety and uncertainty, is the only emotion that you can really put a finger to. Then when you finally get to see them–that they’re alright–and you reach out to hug them, that chaos forms into something different. It forms into a cathartic expression of love.
The next track Hourglass is so comfy. The orchestral synths in the background lull you into this inviting kind of atmosphere. The best way you can describe the atmosphere is that imagine you are in when you’re away from family for an extended amount of time. After taking a cab to the airport, getting a family member to pick you up, meeting them at the baggage claim, driving home, and seeing the rest of your family and chatting about how your lives have been going. It’s that immediate feeling of familiarity, without any awkwardness, or desire to impress them that makes those moments so inviting–and what makes it so personal. So the synths that slowly arpeggio this slow melodic trance, don’t have the chaotic kind of melody as the previous track. It’s pure comfiness. So even if you don’t have a family, or can’t relate to the comparison of music to family, you can at least relate to snuggling up in bed and watching Netflix, right? If you ever felt comfortable at all in your life, and don’t wake up everyday drinking acid, sleeping on a bed of nails, taking cold showers, or working customer service; then you can relate to being comfy. And if you can relate to being comfy, then you can relate to this song.
So now we get to A Reunion, this track in particular calls back to David Bowie’s 1977 album Low. Which I don’t like to use comparison to other albums, yet the “Slow side” (as Bowie called it) of the album is something that hasn’t been expanded upon. Since Bowie shed so many different genres, and styles, that he could make many masterpieces in varying genres. Yet with Low it’s a sound that’s never been revisited before, as much as it should have. Maybe it’s due to the fact since it was so creative it just inspired artists to be more creative. Or perhaps the people who appreciated it added bits and pieces of it to their own work. Who knows? But regardless, this song in particular expounds on the ideas expressed on Low and adds new emotional dimensions to the album. Because Low was coincidentally made at a “Low” point of Bowie’s life (see what I did there). It’s incredibly somber because if you just got fucked over by your manager, got addicted to coke, got into Fascism for some reason, got divorced, moved to a different country, and then tried to start all over sober and clean; your album isn’t going to be brimming with joy. So if you want to musical equivalent of Christmas morning with your family; with the amazing synths, arpeggios, and bells that this track has to offer–then this is the song for you.
I Should Have Spoken is the track which I would say has the only source of conflict. That conflict being the sizzling hum of a synth on one ear, all while a warm melodic melody is being played in the other. It’s the kind of soundtrack that would be played after there is a big fight. The kind of fight that at the moment is hurtful, but later when everything is reconciled the sound morphs into this warm loving tone. Since I’ve made the comparison to family a lot, anybody can tell you that there is going to be a few fights in any family. Hence why the sizzling pulsating synth works so well in this track. Yet what separates that conflict from any other is that deep down inside, you know that you still love each other.
Next up is Second Chances, and I have to say, I LOVE THE DRUM in this track. It has this kind of synthy ballroom kind of sound, which is really the only way to describe it. I think with the percussion, the bass which sounds amazing (which really reminds me of Final Fantasy VIII for some reason), and the lead synths that has that shimmering tone (kind of like some 90’s Dr. Dre kind of synth) gives it this real party vibe. Like you’re with your family on New Year’s Eve, and the ball is about to drop so you cork open the champagne bottle. Basically it’s a laid back celebratory kind of sound that gets all more endearing the more you listen to it.
Finally there’s Tumbleweeds At Dusk which opens up with an ambient synth, and almost whiny synths. When I say whiny, I don’t mean cheesy emotional, I mean whiny as the expected kind of thing when you’re about to leave your family. You’re all kind of sad that you’re going back home after visiting them, and they try not to cry–yet good byes are never easy–so the tears begin to flow. Yet as I said before, this album is filled with such warmth, it’s not an existential kind of sadness. It’s a sadness filled with great joy, because you had a great time, you all got to see each other again. So when your plane is about to depart, and the sadness begins to fade away; all that’s left is the recollection of those brief moments of pure love.
It’s these types of emotional expressions that you rarely hear in popular music. With everybody try to exert their own individuality, by being more abrasive, shocking, depressive, or hedonistic; you lose a lot of opportunity to express other feelings on the emotional spectrum, that is the human condition. So with this album Acef Stripe has managed to find the soul in the machine, and I hope that this father son duo continue to make great music. Because music that has this much emotional capacity needs to be heard.
With their ability to put to sound the depth, and complexity of emotions rarely heard on music; I give this album my full recc. Please check it out.