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Synapscape – Again

Synapscape - Again

CD, Ant-Zen, 2009
www.ant-zen.com/synapscape

Synapscape are one of the longer-standing members of the industrial and powernoise heavyweights club; since their first, eponymous release in 1995, this duo have been associated with hard-hitting technoid rhythms, where melodic components become a secondary concern to the crushing waves of percussive insanity.
“Again”, their newest release (the title cleverly carries on where their 2007 album “Now” left off) doesn’t deviate from this tried and tested sonic recipe. Massive distorted textures create epic post-industrial soundscapes across which militaristic rhythms march to the call of Tim Kniepp’s grating vocals. Tracks like “Who painted my cat black” deliver the prerequisite levels of harsh ‘n heavy, but you also have cleverly engineered pieces like “Aftermath” displaying an intricacy that is often missing from a genre that tends to be quite minimalist in its approach. Expect pleasant surprises from a melodic point of view. Layers of sound reveal themselves in different ways with repeated listenings, often with unexpected results: “Stuck” appears, at first, to be fairly run-of-the-mill stuff, but the high-pitched mechanics in the background, coupled with drill-like stabs and sheets of what sounds like Jacob’s Ladder electrics, unsettles the listener on a primal level. Lovely, but unnerving. Then there are also moments of relative softness – “Requirement”, while still undeniably brooding, presents a fa├žade more reminiscent of upbeat EBM than noise or power electronics.
“Core”, the last track on the album, is the most out-of-place. Sounding more like “Sidewinder”-era Download than Synapscape, it presents something of an enigma: will the duo be congratulated on their diversity, or will their daring be greeted by confusion from a fanbase expecting rhythms and noise? I sincerely hope, for their part, it’s the former, as “Again” is definitely one of the better-constructed industrial records I’ve heard lately. For the most part, it will satisfy raging beat addicts, but there is enough substance in its technicality to maintain interest amongst those who prefer to listen than to dance.

[8/10]

— David vander Merwe

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