Awkward Silence - The Master System EP - Debut Shows Promise

The Master System by Awkward Silence is in some sense a debut EP. This musical project by actor James Harris released a sample heavy 90’s rave inspired romp in May, but this is his first release in this genre. The 90’s sample heavy style seems to peek its way through more often than not throughout the English actor’s EP.

“Intro” (you get one guess which track number that is) is the first song of the EP to demonstrate this 90’s electronic aesthetic that peaks its head. The ominous and atmospheric pads of the track are soon accompanied by a very acidy 303 arp. This mixture of sounds is actually pretty interesting and leads to the EPs first of many audio samples.

To listeners more familiar with the meticulously programmed precision of modern electronic tracks, this EP overall may feel sloppy. This is due to the sample heavy nature of it. “Don’t Stop the Montage” is noticeably sample heavy, and it works for some parts of the songs. The sound bites included in this track show both the good and bad of The Master System. When they work, they have a campiness that succeeds in creating atmosphere. When it doesn’t work, it is invasive and really detracts from the whole.

“Citizens On Patrol” has my favorite sounds of the release. The persistent waves of bass synth carry the track. A similar arp to “Intro” joins the bass and it really makes a fresh and original moment. “Fade Into the Background” loses a little steam from being a little obtuse in terms of rhythm. That being said, the lead synth of it is pretty sounding and it has a pretty successful use of a sound clip.

The penultimate track is a strong one. The melodies are all pretty intricate but also very accessible and constantly bounce off each other and harmonize. The female vocal sampling in “Midnight Identity Crisis” is best of EP and makes me really wish this track had an actual vocal track. “The Final Escape” (again, guess the track listing) is interesting. A lot of the music we cover here is excellent as background music or for active listening. “The Final Escape” doesn’t work very well as background music. It just moves from one idea to another too quickly. It is, however, an excellent track to actively listen to and appreciate the pieces of the whole.

The biggest things holding this EP back is the over-reliance of sound bites and the uneven production quality. The tracks that work here work really well. This is mainly due to the far-reaching influences Awkward Silence pulls from. Your interest in this release will ultimately come from your own views of this musician/fan community. What is this community to you? This is a serious question, and one I hope to address in a future post. I think we all define it differently and come to new releases and new artists differently as a result. First releases in a genre are rarely great, but this scene is so DIY intensive and communally supportive. We listen. We create. We share. This EP may have rookie flaws, but it has glimmers of originality that make me interested in follow up releases.

- Joey Edsall

Joey Edsall

Joey Edsall was born and raised near Scranton, Pennsylvania. He has always immersed himself in art, being an avid fan of film and music and an amateur creator of both. In addition to the electronic production aspect of music, he is the lead guitarist of Scranton-based post-hardcore band Give Us Your Bones. It was his love of film that initially drew Joey to NRW and the unique sounds of the genre, through modern classics like Drive and retro classics like Big Trouble in Little China. He is also a middle school English teacher. Email: