About three or four years ago, when I first started to became entrenched in the sounds of synthwave, I discovered a producer by the handle of Mild Peril. Their unique sound was unlike anything I had ever heard at the time, and really I haven’t heard anything like it since but, to my dismay, they seemed to disappear after their initial release through Telefuture. It happens, unfortunately, with any musical scene. Acts come and go for various reasons. Many acts who were around just a few years ago are no longer producing, which is always a shame, but in Mild Peril I found a real connection; losing that was something which has bothered me ever since.
Flash forward to about a month ago when I found out that Mild Peril is actually not only still around, and has been this entire time producing album after album, but is now known as Paladin. To say that I was ecstatic as soon as I discovered this would be an understatement. It was like reconnecting with an old high school friend after not seeing them since graduation. They sounded and acted more or less the same since last you saw them, but in that time they’ve grown and matured, and have only gotten better with age. In a way it was a bittersweet reunion, as I wish that I could have been following Paladin this entire time, but now I had an entire catalog to go through and catch up on and I couldn’t have been happier to do so.
As I mentioned before, the thing that really attracted me in the first place to Paladin, then Mild Peril, was their unique sound. When many people hear “synthwave,” they tend to automatically associate the scene with the 1980’s, images of neon soaked beaches, fast cars, and training montages on their minds. However, much like there are subgenres within synthwave such as darksynth, which brings to mind more sinister images like post-apocalyptic settings, demons, and killer robots, the music of Paladin is very much within it’s own sub-genre of synth in that they dial it back to an earlier time in synth history: namely the 1970s.
Therefore, Paladin is more akin to progressive synth, for to listen to Paladin is to be transported back to a time when synth work was just starting to be used as a means to create unique sounds and haunting atmospheres. The work of Mike Oldfield, who infamously produced “Tubular Bells,” instantly springs to mind. Like in my previous examples of synth genre work, where I put mental images to music, the sounds of Paladin conjure up phantasmagorical displays of rain soaked castles, illuminated by the crackling of lightning, and ghosts roaming their hallowed halls… in space.
Fun Fact: I played some of Paladin’s music recently during a game of Dungeons and Dragons and it made for some great atmospheric accompaniment.
Bonus Fun Fact: I play a Paladin in said game.
But seriously, as I said before, I’ve yet to really hear anything quite like Paladin and that says something. The synthwave scene, much like any musical scene, is a constant struggle to get noticed and stand out from the crowd, a feat often achieved by having a unique sound. Many acts, especially newer ones, struggle with this and will emulate others at first. There is nothing wrong with this, as where would we be without our influences?
However, there is something to be said for those who continue to mimic others and those that eventually break away and form their own identities. You should never be completely defined by your genre, but rather help to define the genre itself through the evolution of your own music; you need to experiment. Paladin, in my humble opinion, is easily one of those acts and, if you’ve somehow gone this long without discovering their work, I implore you to correct that now.
You won’t regret it at all.