Hot on the heels of his 2015 LP release, Ludrium a.k.a. Cody Carpenter is back with new songs that came to be in the second half of 2015.
Unity is the name of the album but there is not that much unity here. Still, Cody admits as much saying it's more of a collection of songs rather than a cohesive album.
And while it's certainly no concept album in terms of homogeneity, it still manages to make a coherent whole.
What does unify the album it is the common thread in the form of love of sophisticated riffs that Cody weaves into much of its tracks. He is an excellent guitarist and the synth riffs are equally baroque.
Another commonality to the tracks that make up Unity is the overall sheen in production that is now Cody's trademark. It's simply instantly recognizable and makes Ludrium one of the most desirable masterers in the business in my opinion.
Drop Kick – A typical exuberant Ludrium track. Melodies are all over the place (in a good way) and you’re jumping face first into a pool of warm synth virtuosity.
Sentinel - Romantic overtones, slower tempo, rolling baseline. Shifting moods, from mystery to romantic.
Machines of Man - Harkens back to 16-bit era gaming with its common settings in hi tech, cyber-punkish, magic-meets-science locales. I can imagine an important mid-game boss battle in Final Fantasy 6 playing out to this song. The tempo is slower but that makes it more epic.
Save Your Mysterious Power for Dancing - This tracks has a really bubbly and danceable main motif, which is equal parts disco and 16-but gaming soundtracks. It quickly switches places with a more prog rock and it becomes an interchange between those two. Fun and high emotion at the same time.
The Sacred Tree - Another love letter to 16-bit gaming, this one would play during an intermission between battles when you learn about a sacrifice by an important character or that a vital part of the planet is dying and needs saving. Nobuo Uematsu would rejoice hearing this (maybe he is a fan already!). Very serene and poignant.
Cyber Attack - the most pure synthwave track on the album, Cyber Attack shows Ludrium is capable of dishing out some "true believer" stuff as well. The synths are so crisp and the mix of the suspense and the radiance really shines on this track. There is a whole movie stuck in just 3:35 of this song.
Bramble - Love the word "Bramble". It just evokes the days of playing 16-bit platformers as a kid. One of the best pieces of video game music from SNES are is from a Donkey Kong game called "Bramble Blast". Coincidence? This track has a decidedly different feel but could fit right in as, say, opening theme of a Chrono Trigger (an epic 16-bit RPG about time travel if you've lived under the rock ;))
Plot a Course for Earth - for those in the know of JRPG tropes, this track would play during a sequence where the heroes are stuck in orbit around the plant and just faced a major defeat and after some deliberating, reaffirm their resolve to fight for their home and discover a newfound unity and readiness to sacrifice. The tracks feels just as epic.
Trails Between Worlds - Whoa. This track comes out of nowhere after the space opera-eque first half of the album. This time we're knees deep in eastern melodies, with gorgeous Middle Eastern guitar intro making way for a blood pumping chase track. Intricate and exciting.
We Have One Chance - if so far we have only flirted with the JRPG sound, this tracks outright pays tribute to it with one of the licks pulled right out of the mega-epic JENOVA battle theme from Final Fantasy 7. It covers really immense narrative ground, from moments of pure determination, to self-doubt to the great triumph and a feeling of togetherness.
This would make for a fantastic closing battle theme. But really even if you're not a video game fan, this is simply music filled with emotion and sense of grand adventure and should be heard by anyone with a sensibility greater than that of a mushroom. True climax of the album.
Cherished Memories - Goosebumps material. Atmospheric and evocative, this one conveys a feeling of standing in a 2405 A.D. techno-cathedral right after regaining your lost memory. The kind of track you can lose yourself in if you let it happen.
Fortress - Although now we're rethreading familiar territory with a classic Ludrium ode to wonder and exploration, I totally understand Cody's choice not to close the album with the previous track as it really transports you elsewhere. Fortress, then, brings you back to Earth so you can go about with your daily business. Thank you for that.
I'm the kind of guy whose heart flutters when my synthwave is on the minimalistic side, with repetition, deconstruction of tropes and the unexpected coming from new sound colors and flow, rather than showy riffs and overcomplicated progression.
However, I am still able to really appreciate the brand of retrosynth that Ludrium produces. His take has always been very much progressive rock which shows in plenty a syncopated beats and fluttering melodies. Yet, it never comes off as pompous and overcooked, rather it contributes to the overall feeling of innocence, amazement and wonder that I believe brings many of us to the retrowave genre.
by Filip Galetic
Filip grew up on a diet of Masters of Universe, Nightmare on Elm Street and MTV. Born in Croatia, currently lives in Brussels but considers himself a citizen of the planet. Eagerly awaiting 2015 to try out self tying shoes and the hoverboard.