CD, Ant-Zen, 2011
A note, a pause and then, ‘bang!’, Synapscape are back with another brutal album of powerful rhythmic industrial. Straight into it, no messing about with ambient introductions this time, those can be left for later. Following hot on the heels of 2009’s “Again”, “Traits” will not let any fans down at all, showcasing perfectly the German duo’s inimitable blend of complex rhythms and tense atmospheres. In addition to that fine contrast of distorted beats and clean synths we’ve come to know and love, there are of course a few new surprises to be enjoyed here.
One of Synapscape’s great strengths is the way the compositions are skilfully crafted, the percussion complicated without ever being unnecessarily virtuoso, never veering off into drum‘n’bass routines so beloved of other acts on the scene. The way the bass lines, atmospheres and lead synths are fitted over the top always displays a subtlety in the balance of different sounds and textures. Album opener “Host” can barely be faulted, though some might find the sampled voices in “Fate Decoders in Your Head” a little annoying. Then, on “First Came the Floods”, Tim Kniep lets rip with his harsh vocals, another example of some hard-to-define, special character within Synapscape’s work, standing out somehow from ‘terror EBM’ or power electronics vocalists. This seems to be the point where we can really tell this album is going to be a good one.
“Slowdive” and “Downfall” are a great pairing of tracks, following a harsh instrumental with a more atmospheric vocal tune, but repeating this on the next two pieces is quite the album highlight for me. “Deerstalker” is classic rhythmic industrial, a weighty barrage of beats and noise, followed by the remarkable “Authority’s My Son”, a brooding dark electro anthem hinting at certain great bands from the past while retaining Synapscape’s trademark stamp. After that we’re definitely in need of a rest with some fine dark ambient sounds, on “Condition Sine Qua Non”, building to a noisy finale, more of which can be enjoyed later with the smoother and more rhythmic ten-minute-long “Hiller”.
“Commute” is softer and more delicate in places, a frantic electro piece perfectly representing crowds of scuttling workers; the almost eponymous “Snapscape” shows more of this over its brittle, shattering percussion. Finally, “Rise” sends us away with a final burst of crunchy industrial and some peculiarly thought-provoking religious samples pleading forgiveness for ‘worshipping the intellectual mind’. Definitely top ten albums of the year material this one!
— Nathan Clemence