Review by Saul Tyni
There is always something special when the old legends are back in business. They are familiar to every fan, they are inspiration to many, young musicians are trying to follow their footsteps. Like now, when Rygar, a spacesynth duo formed by two legendary spacesynth musicians Michiel van der Kuy and Rob van Eijk, is back with their officially first album. Every spacesynth fan is familiar with their background, and now especially spacesynth hits like "Star Tracks" and "Space Raiders". So, how does new Rygar sound in 2012?
First of all, let's have a look into the cover artwork. It seems okay to me. It doesn't look like much we have used to see in this genre. I like the idea of using old artwork by da Vinci as a part of the coverart, as there is a track called "Vitruvian Man" on the album. The quality of the cover is professional and I like the choice of colours of it, blue-yellow-white-black is enough, it is not too chaotic this way when there isn't too many different colours used. The booklet includes biographies of Rygar, Michiel and Rob written by Staffan Öhman. They are written very well and in a comprehensive way. Especially new spacesynth fans might find this very valuable.
The album includes 13 spacesynth tracks that varies from midtempo to hightempo. Actually nine of the tracks are totally new, while the rest four are more or less different versions of "Star Tracks" and "Space Raiders". To me it is a nice idea to include these two tracks on the album, it feels like they have now really "a home", a full length official album. In the same time, the tracks are these days hard to get elsewhere (legally) so this way they are easy to get like they should.
The overall mood of the album is happy, it is full of good melodies, excellent build-ups and lots of lovely vocoders. The sound of the album is a nice mixture between traditional spacesynth and modern, punchy, electronic music and the choice of instruments leaves nothing more to be desired. Overall, "Modulation" is a well produced album. The music itself is very good, what is expected from the two legends. The tracks varies from nice to excellent, and there are really quite many great tracks in the album. To me the familiar "Star Tracks" and "Space Riders" are the best tracks on the album (I might be old fashioned because I like the original more than the remixes), for sure, but I'm delighted to realize that there are also some really great new tracks on the album too. Along with "Star Tracks" and "Space Riders" my favorites on the album are "Illusion in C Minor" (hightempo with cool drive), "Humanity" (midtempo with nice atmosphere) and "Modulation" (classic stuff).
Although the music is good, I think the flow of the album leaves a bit to be desired. "Robotic Voice" is a nice track, but as an opening trackit doesn't work for me that good, I'd like to hear some other track as the first one instead. For example, "Secret Message" works better for me, don't know why but that is how I felt when listening the album for the first time. It might be also depend on taste how you experience the tracklist (of course, anyone can make their own tracklist order if they feel so). The second thing I'd also would have like to hear some slowtempo tracks, even ambientish, because they would have given the album more depth and I know these guys could have done that. But what is expected then? Slow tracks might not have fit the men's visions here. This album resembles much like the work of Laserdance and Koto albums, the aim of the album might be more in the side of "dance" than just "sit back and listen". One thing that I usually critisize in music is if it has too much repetition. And I know repetition is quite usual in electronic music, and even masters like Jarre, Vangelis or Hammer has done that, but still. Lots of repetition requires great catchy and memorable melodies. Some of the songs on the album, like "Vitruvian Man"(although the build-up of the track is just brilliant), has IMO too much repetition with mediocre chord sequences in some places. But this is not the chase of all the tracks, just some places of some tracks on the album and it isn't unusual at all.
To summarize the album: it is a really good spacesynth album, in my opinion it is better than the Area 51 albums and many other spacesynth albums released. If you like Laserdance, Koto and Rygar's older tracks, then I'm sure you will like this album as well. I personally like the drive and rhythm of most of the album tracks very much. After all, Michiel and Rob doesn't need to prove anything. The album radiates the joy of making happy spacesynth music, and it is easy to figure that out just when listening the album. That is also something that we, spacesynth musicians, should learn from them. Great job, Michiel and Rob. Fortunately, this album is not only about nostalgia - it has also other values so I gladly recommend this album to all spacesynth fans.