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Review by Krizz
It's so cool to see Michiel van der Kuy and Rob van Eijk back in studio composing spacesynth again. While MvdK was already here releasing stuff at Hyps and SSR, return of RvE to studio and spacesynth music wasn't obvious at all. But now two legends are here and now we're getting a release which is the fruit of their cooperation. So, is the "Modulation" a groundbreaking record in contemporary spacesynth scene? What is the difference between this album and latest MvdK releases at Hyps, as Area51? Did moving from Hyps to SSR did any good for music produced by the most legendary spacesynth producer?
The album surprises with its cover. It's not another spaceship or 3d-rendered spaces. Choice of Vitruvian Man as the main concept of the covert art is definitely good idea, since 3d-renders became passť already and simpy boring. On the other hand the choice of colors and overall design looks... uhm, shoddy, not only old-fashioned, but also pretty tasteless. It reminds a lot of covers made by Hyps, so at this point nothing has changed. Too bad, although the concept is good.
Nah, that's just a cover, but what about the music? I will not focus on all tracks one by one. In my opinion music sounds slightly better than Area51, even though I'm not fan of happy music in major keys, and this kind of sound is predominating. If my memory servers me well, Michiel said about moving into software synthesis. Well, I can hear that. Unfortunately, some software synths still cannot handle well high frequencies, which result in awful aliasing, and "Secret Message" is the example - when the main lead hits high frequencies, aliasing can be easily recognized. But it's not such big deal. Tracks are well balanced, melodies are good, not brilliant though. I can also recognize allusions to classic tracks like "Laser Fears" or "Jabdah" by Michiel - "Captain the Universe" uses similar pitched-down male-spoken parts. It doesn't thrill me as it used to in late 80's, obviously, but I appreciate the attempt.
One of the quite annoying things about the album is recycling the sounds. There is specific lead sound I have a feeling MvdK considers his new trademark and reuses it in quite many tracks, including "Secret message" or album title track. Since album is produced by MvdK, it also contains a lot of old-school sounds Laserdance was recycling over and over in 80-90's. Does it bother much? Some people will be bothered, some don't. I realize they are Michiel's trademark, so I don't quite care.
If I was into pointing the best tracks, these would be "Robotic Voices" and "Modulations". They are not groundbreaking, but are slightly better than the rest, in my opinion. These two are minor-keyed, so that's my pair of shoes, besides they feature few interesting melody lines.
In summary, the answer to the questions few lines above is... no. "Modulation" will not change contemporary spacesynth scene, it's just another pretty decent album, well produced, slightly overcompressed though :) I didn't liked Area51 albums much, but I have a feeling rendez-vous of Michiel and Rob is a good direction. I have a feeling Rob introduced some fresh roughness to Michiel's music as Area51, which was too clean and repetitive sound-wise. Most of the tracks use different bassline and drum kits sound also different from track to track. I really like the intros of some of the tracks, some of those SFXes are awesome. That's the way.
But. Still. Not. Groundbreaking. If I was supposed to choose between Rygar and some of the contemporary artist, I'd choose Dreamtime, with no hesitation.