I was born in the mid-1980’s, and therefore I spent most of my early years in the 1990’s, so there’s always been this weird sense of belonging to the “proto-millennials” as I can still vividly remember a time before the internet and when computer technology became ever so commonplace. As some examples, I went from using a standalone Apple II in elementary school to using an internet-ready iMac by high school. I used payphones to call collect and was then amazed when I first saw a portable phone. I experienced the last glory days of arcades, and their downfall, as 2D graphics on home consoles using cartridges gave way to 3D powerhouses which harnessed the potential of CD based media. There was truly a sense of living in a time of great progress and promise back then, when sweeping changes in technology brought with it such an optimistic outlook for the future ahead.
“Twirl,” by Alpha Chrome Yayo, is an album which not only encapsulates those feelings but gives off an aura not unlike one might imagine from a genie in a lamp; potent magic which was somehow bottled has now been unleashed. While Alpha Chrome Yayo wrote some wonderful linear notes about the album, and what all it meant to him, I nonetheless felt compelled to write some of my own…
(I burned the first two tracks from “Twirl” onto a CD and then played it on my real SEGA Saturn for the above video, as one of the inspirations for the album was early CD gaming!)
Now a lot of synthwave can be characterized as being tied to the past, for better or for worse, but to me there’s a difference between being simply inspired by that past in comparison to outright glorifying it in such a way to where it can almost border on parody, intentionally or not. In the case of “Twirl,” it really does feel like an absolute love letter to that era and without a hint of irony. This isn’t to say that its a completely serious affair without a sense of fun and excitement, quite the opposite, as it strikes a perfect balance with fanciful speculation.
To that end, its like an early 3D render of the ocean put into audio form; its still soothing despite its simplicity. Which is to say that, while its not a perfect one-to-one representation, it nonetheless transcends reality in a unique way due to its dream-like qualities. Perfect mood music for any meditation session, really.
But we can’t always dream. Sometimes we’re wracked with nightmares, which is where low.poly.exception comes in like a virus to infect and distort that once promising future with their upcoming album, “The Year of the Net.” As much as I can remember a time when the internet was seen as this vast stretch of untapped land straight out of the wild west, where anyone could stake their claim, I’ve also seen it become more of a corporate wasteland where brands are treated as people and we willingly give ourselves over to them and others in order to hopefully claim our five minutes of digital fame. If “Twirl” is an ode to a time in the past when the future seemed bright, then “The Year of the Net” casts a dark reflection on our faces of the horrific reality which we now find ourselves.
Yet I love them both the same. After all, there can be no light without dark and vice versa. Nor can we enjoy unbridled optimism without cautionary negativity; to deny either is to ignore both. There must always be something lost on the road to utopia just as there will always be a sense of hope within a dystopia. These two albums then, while in no way intentional, are a perfect compliment to one another like two sides of the same coin in regards to the potential of technology.
In fact, hearkening back to a prior point, one of the reasons why I enjoy low.poly.exception so much, on top of the music itself, is their sense of biting satire and parody while having a real appreciation for the true testaments of cyberpunk; it’s a dark and unforgiving world where we did not become the masters of technology but rather subservient to its whims and allures.
Now I am aware that, as of this writing, “Twirl” has been released in full whereas “The Year of the Net” is a pre-order with only two tracks available. Therefore, consider this a review of the former and a preview for the latter with a full disclosure: I’ve been granted total access by low.poly.exception and have therefore already listened to “The Year of the Net” in its entirety. Regardless, and even with only those two previously mentioned tracks publicly listenable right now in order to entice potential buyers, I can personally assure you that low.poly.exception’s upcoming album is indeed a technological thriller in foreboding futurism with atmospheric anarchism which you need to experience:
Amusing alliterations aside, and to reiterate the point, “Twirl” and “The Year of the Net” are both great examples of using synthwave in a unique way in order to more or less tackle the same subject but through different philosophical lenses and musical viewpoints. While I’m not saying that every album has to actually say something, or tap into certain feelings, I simply cannot deny that these two albums are indeed doing just that, and quite exquisitely, so kudos to them both.