LAYER – Synapses At Work EP 1 – EP Review
If nothing else, it can certainly be said that LAYER has its title-game on-point…but of course, in saying that, the accuracy of this new EP’s title should certainly also indicate that there IS a whole lot more to be said about the music you’ll find here. Designed to get your synapses firing on every level, LAYER has put together a series of five cuts that move brilliantly through an electro vibe that incorporates everything from rhythmic, house-inspired beats & grooves to more experimental ideas inserted into the atmosphere. If there’s something to be said overall about these Synapses At Work, it’s that these new songs from LAYER definitely have the ability to captivate the mind and move the body at the same time.
Five official tracks, one bonus cut that leads you into the second EP of Synapses At Work, which I’m assuming is coming out later on down the road somewhere. It begins with the chants of the “State Of Ganapati” – which I think right off the bat will set the tone; for me there are differences between what LAYER is doing and those found within typical electro. For myself personally as a listener, that gives the uniqueness of LAYER a huge advantage…and of course, I can understand that for others, it doesn’t take too long for the music to become what’s likely too far for some people to journey along with. That’s true of all music to some extent – though there are always challenges in convincing people to listen to music in languages outside of their own. Assuming that listeners can embrace the universal aspects of music that bond us all together, I think people will get a lot out of electro like LAYER makes. The sound and mix on “State Of Ganapati” is lively, dynamic and all-around perfection; there is an audible smorgasbord of sounds to listen to in the music and LAYER has them all on crisp & crystal-clear display for all to hear. Really rad rhythmic percussion grooves that take shape in the song’s mid-section and continuously haunting and ethereal sounds in the atmosphere surrounding them that you won’t be able to take your ears off of. LAYER transitions flawlessly and subtly moves this groove around, shifting the sounds we hear with real precision and care, making the whole flow of “State Of Ganapati” fluid, entertaining and highly charismatic throughout the journey of its seven & a half minutes. As far as the vocal samples go – I think LAYER has made a brilliant choice in using these virtually as an instrument, forming a lot of the melody around them at the base and creating an ever-enveloping atmosphere from the ground up around them.
The incredible fusion, the immaculate beats and the extraordinary vision, ambitions and intentions of this project continue to rule the lefts & rights of your speakers with “Optical Amour.” If you’re an audiophile like I am myself, you simply won’t be able to get enough of this. That MIX! LAYER shows an insightful amount of skill and incredible ear for sound…LISTEN to the way these sounds come through and how clear they are – you’ll feel like you can reach out and touch them! The amount of texture in “Optical Amour” is truly something to listen to…the sounds in this song seem like they’ve been recorded in 3D; everything pops-out audibly as it adds to the adventure and stands out as a crucial part of the overall composition. LAYER keeps the pace of “Optical Amour” to a mid-tempo for the majority of the song, but with the added amount of characteristics being laced & threaded into the mix, it really feels like this one found a way to a perfect level of fullness that is set to extremely satisfy. I was a little less sure about “Optical Amour” when it seems to head from its more experimental vibe and tries to climb back into a more traditional electro sound from about the 4:30 mark to the 5:30 mark…that might have been one step too many for myself. I was enjoying the chillness in the atmosphere and the subtle way that “Optical Amour” was moving along…this particular minute in the final third of the song takes the energy up, which some people will appreciate…for me it was just a tad too busy. That being said, the way it leaves this part and flows back into what’s easily the smoothest vibes and most accessible sound we’ve heard from LAYER so far to create the ending for “Optical Amour” helps you appreciate how busy the song was getting only moments before in effort to set this final part of the song up for the impact it makes. If that was the goal, if that was the intention…then it’s all worth it and the idea paid off. I think there was a risk in taking the electro to a place that was a lot more in-your-face with this particular part of the song I’ve been referring to…but if the ambition here was to create a memorable ending as the intensity strips itself away & transforms into the smoothness of the final moments, then job well done. I think the first four-minutes & thirty-seconds of this cut held some of the best ideas and execution I’ve heard in electro this year…the sounds are exquisite to listen to as they’re added in and the vibe is incredibly melodic, unique and straight-up interesting to the ears. The combinations that LAYER creates to make these electro-melodies are no easy task – there’s clearly a ton of work being put in here from the selection of sounds to the placement & editing that leads each addition to become a complement.
“Code Of Enigma” – to me, that’s LAYER at its very best right here. Instrumental and electro can often be tough to describe in words as it comes without them to begin with – and I’ll admit, I might not have enough of a vocabulary to properly detail just how much I love this tune – but hands down, this is one of the best electro-jams I’ve heard all year. Quite likely it will be for YOU as well – how could it NOT be? All day long I read about people thinking there’s ‘nothing good out there in new music’ – and doesn’t “Code Of Enigma” firmly prove that to be wrong? This track is SIIIIIIIIIIIICK! LISTEN to the sound selection – I’m honestly in awe of the way that LAYER mixes these sounds together so incredibly well; everything has such incredible clarity and every move in the music seems to complement the last. The transitions sound perfect, effortless and flawless as the song moves from bar-to-bar & beat-to-beat, incorporating deep-house grooves, drum & bass inclinations and an ever-present penchant to reach for the experimental through sounds you don’t typically expect to hear woven into the mix. “Code Of Enigma” has ALL the energy, ALL the juice, ALL the vibrant sound and versatile dynamics you always hope to hear in an electro cut and almost never get – there are no mistakes here and every transition LAYER makes along the way adds up to more pure-audible-joy in the music for you to listen. I’ll say this – you don’t get a track to come out sounding this outstanding and exceptional without being right into the moment yourself as its creator. LAYER is clearly crushing it with confidence here and ideas so strong in the music they can’t help but completely stand out. Big thumbs up to “Code Of Enigma” – easily one of my favorite tracks on all of the cuts from Synapses At Work EP 1.
As much as the title of the record is completely apt, so too is the title of this entire project. LAYER is a great name for this…because ultimately, there are so many layers combining and firing-up in the music at all times that it seems like there’s always something new being added into the mix. That counts for a lot – these aren’t short songs by any stretch and to keep the journey of each track interesting, the work has certainly been put in and an examination has definitely occurred objectively. As with a lot of rhythmic & hypnotic electro-music, you can get completely lost in the groove…and yes, sometimes that’s a nice feature in listening to music like that…but personally I get a lot more out of stuff like this that doesn’t ever once rely on repetition solely to make its impact. “The Ghost Train Of Zennati (Part 2)” is a solid example of this; you can hear at its core, there is definitely that hypnotic repetition at work – in the background. Well…to be fair, LAYER works the mix so incredibly well that you shift from the background to the forefront with ease without the song ever feeling jagged…but the point I’m trying to make is that there is a steady & reliable idea that usually holds the fort in the background, which allows LAYER to fully explore the textures overtop. And therein lies the magic – that’s what’s making these songs stand out to our ears and giving them such incredible definition – LAYER understands production amazingly well and how to give clarity and space to each element we hear…and that makes a ride on “The Ghost Train Of Zennati (Part 2)” one you’ll want to make sure you grab a ticket for. I think that in terms of accessibility, “The Ghost Train Of Zennati (Part 2)” is certainly much more exclusive to the electro-fans out there…but it’s not always about pulling in the rest of the world so much as it can be about excelling and thriving within the universe of sound & environments you’re most comfortable in, and I think that’s what LAYER is up to here. Giving one back to the real fans of electro that gets your brain dancing and moving…there’s enough cohesion that LAYER’s EDM hasn’t quite gone fully IDM on “The Ghost Train Of Zennati (Part 2)” – but I think there’s arguably less focus on creating an accessibility here and more focus on letting loose the bold imagination and sounds of electro in full-force. Nothing wrong with that…I think LAYER has taken it easy on us for the most part and kept things fairly even and universal in sound & style along the EP in ways that will appeal to many people out there…nothing wrong with taking a quick dip into even more involved, complex and textured electro like you’ll find on “The Ghost Train Of Zennati (Part 2)” – it gives this record more depth and something for the real fans of innovative electro-music out there.
Depending on how you listen to it, the final song “Icarus” can occasionally hang on a little too long to some of its ideas in comparison to what we’ve heard so far along the way. Again, that’d be the impression you’d likely get from dedicating your ears to what’s happening at the furthest points away in the mix and background layers of the song – up close, LAYER is always presenting something unique. There are a few percussive elements that drag out a bit and ride the edge of groovy/grating…a couple random synth moments that seemed like they just wandered in to the room for a second or two and then split…but also many moments of redemption and victory along the way as well. Particularly, the shift in sound around the 5:30-mark made all the difference in the world in my opinion – it was the latter-half of “Icarus” that I felt like pulled out all the stops and threaded in that vibrant uniqueness we’ve come to love in LAYER’s music all along the way to this point. After a bold and defining transition that shifts the sound in amazing new directions, the ending of the EP’s longest cut gets incredibly inventive over its second-half. Ultimately if I’m being honest, I think LAYER’s wandering a bit in focus throughout the beginning of “Icarus” by comparison to the tightness of what we’ve heard so far and this final track takes those first five minutes to sort all that out…but from there on in, it seemed like LAYER was in full control and steering the ship confidently towards victory. Don’t get me wrong…it’s still entertaining the whole way through…but I think undoubtedly, “Icarus” has its highlight moments in its final third. Of course, being the last thing we’d hear on the record – it’s also nice to go out on top like LAYER does by pumping up the innovation and imagination to its maximum right at the end of the EP.
You also get a quick intro slice of audio from the upcoming Synapses At Work EP 2 through the “Mirrors Of Metaphor (Intro)” that appears at the end of the record. Heading back into the land of cultural fusion, LAYER definitely continues to showcase the potential and evolution of the project with one of the most dynamic cuts on this first EP showing a ton of promise for the future of what’s to come. “Mirrors Of Metaphor (Intro To EP 2)” ramps up the energy in perhaps a more vibrant way than we’ve experienced along this first EP’s contents…a nod perhaps to the direction and shift in sound that the follow-up EP is going to contain. Consider me highly interested…this is the shortest cut on this first EP and technically a bonus I’m sure – but I’m also sure you’d agree that in roughly a quarter of the time as LAYER has put in on any other track from this record, the stakes are also considerably raised right here at the end of what’s already been a wild electro experience the entire time. Definitely a sign of great things to come – and I think it’s actually really smart of LAYER to add this intro to the end of EP 1 to entice you into EP 2…that’s a clever way to go about it that I think many people out there could learn from. It’s like self-advertising in the best way possible…by letting the music speak for itself.
Really rad stuff happening in LAYER…I’ve had an awesome time listening and I’m stoked to hear whatever comes next.
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