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Scandroid - SCANDROID

2016 has been an exceptionally busy/productive year for Klayton. Not only has he meticulously re-issued/remastered the entire Circle of Dust back catalog along with Misguided by Argyle Park — each release replete with tons of bonus and high-quality demo material and new artwork – he is now issuing two full albums of all new material. Circle of Dust – Machines of our Disgrace will be released in December.

In the meantime, he has delivered the self-titled debut from his newest electronic musical endeavor. Scandroid is best categorized as Synthwave/80’s New Wave cyberpunk/rock with the sci-fi concept of humanoid robots struggling to find their identity in a future (2517) where the humans are torn between those embracing the new lifeforms (pro-bots) and those rejecting them (robophobes).

Heavily influenced by Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and the like, the sounds here have one foot firmly planted in the movie soundscapes (Tron, Blade Runner) and pop radio airwaves (Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, etc.) of the 80’s yet draw upon the catchy melodies and innovative song-writing which has made Klayton’s world of Celldweller so addictive and entrancing over the course of the past decade. The 67 minute journey evokes memories of past (especially for those of us who grew up in the 80’s as there are tons of familiar keyboard/synth sounds, electronic drum and effects here) while continuing to explore the present and future world issues of robotics and transhumanism.

As with all things Klayton, there is a mix of melodic, lyric-driven songs (9), instrumental numbers (4) and one cover song (“Shout” – Tears for Fears). Lyrically, I can’t help but notice the Genesis/Biblical references. “Atom,” the main character, grows into "awareness" and becomes the prototype/leader of his kind … and because the “Salvation Code” reveals that it is not good for “machine” to be alone, he collaborates (“Aphelion”/”Connection”) with/”falls in love” with his cybermate “E.E.V.” Together they survive robot extinction in the “Empty Streets” of “Neo-Tokyo” to ultimately reach the underground city of “Eden,” the electronic “paradise” of forever where they will fulfill their destiny – “Singularity.”

Musically, these retro-80’s synthesizer sounds are so iconic that you would swear you were listening to music from three decades prior. Not only this, but there is a plethora of diversity, the various permutations of New Wave well represented. Roland TR-909 and other electronic drum sounds from the 80's equally succeed in transporting the listener to a time when these percussion elements drove the beat of pop radio. Not surprisingly, Klayton does an excellent job of simulating the vocal styles of the era. Just listen to the cover of Tears for Fears “Shout” and tell me this doesn’t sound like the original, and the low/high transitions in the trance-like “Aphelion” similarly inspire awe.

Additionally, synth-vox effects on songs like “Salvation Code” and “Awakening With You” are iconic as well. The quirky (“Whip It”- Devo like) “Connection” stands well alongside the punkish “Empty Streets,” one of the best songs here in my opinion. It would have been nice to have more fast paced rockers like this here, but maybe next time around. The only song I had previously heard was “Pro-bots and Robophobes” which is one of the heaviest songs in the series — sounds like the music of Terminator meets Circle of Dust. Lyrically, along with its predecessor “Neo-Tokyo,” this song chronicles much of the action/story in this futurescape.

Of the instrumental tracks, the opening “narration” is perhaps a bit drawn out but hauntingly draws the listener into the saga while simultaneously setting the “musical backdrop.” “Destination Unknown” is one of those driving songs … you know, the kind where you roll down the window, crank up it up to “11,” and mash the pedal while simultaneously allowing your imagination and senses to take control over reason. The sultry “Atom & E.E.V” is similarly engaging on the sensual level. It serves nicely as an interlude to the main feature, not unlike those obligatory romantic (I didn’t say sex) scenes from 80’s movies. Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but it works in the context of what Klayton is trying to create/emulate here. “Singularity” is the very Vangelis-like, cinematic epilogue to this first installment of Scandroid which, in captivating fashion, sets the stage for the next chapter…

Scandroid represents a wonderful meeting of “old world” and “new world” both thematically and stylistically – one no less memorable (although certainly less “heavy”) than the early 90’s debut of Circle of Dust or the early 2000’s debut of Celldweller. Once again, Klayton has more than succeeded in introducing us to a new “faction” in his ever-growing stable of authentic, scintillating and provocative electronic music. [FiXT]

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