The end of last year saw one of the best synthwave releases that I somehow missed. Astral Tales released Landing on December 20th but it somehow eluded me until I won a Twitter quiz he posted over the past week and got a code. Now I’m doing my due diligence and giving Landing, and Astral Tales, the attention that deserve. Landing is stacked from beginning to end with potential singles, body moving beats, head banging hooks, and atmospheric harmonies. Did I mention it also sports some of the best vocals used in synthwave, and that’s something I wish there was more of.
As soon as Prologue: Cataclysm welcomes you to Landing with ominous synth blasts, you are aware that you are in the presence of something special. The Ascent confirms it, with some of the best synth solos I’ve ever heard. It is easily one of the marquee tracks on the album and an example of everything that is so great about this genre of music we love so much. War in the Void picks up the pace with a dangerous beat, crunchy synth chords, and soaring harmonies that hold it all together. End of the Age welcomes vocals to the album, and it’s a prog-rock track with a synth heartbeat. It reminds me very much of Anathema, and you have no idea how big of a compliment that is. I especially enjoyed the piano interlude in the middle of the song. Pure brilliance.
Seriously inspired track….Did I mention how much I love Atlas Library?!?
Atlas Library is the gateway to the middle of the album, it is also my very favorite song on the record. It has a early 1980’s new wave synth hook and I cannot get enough of it. When I first heard it I immediately started the track over the second it finished. Early 80’s synths + vocodor? Oh yes. With icing on top. The Red Iris delves more into the realm of synthpop than synthwave, but that’s another one of the things that makes electronic so great. It’s malleable, interchangeable, and the many different forms it takes on work so well with each other. Again, there’s a synth heavy Anathema vibe here, and I absolutely love the progressive-synth feeling that Astral Tales is able to capture in some of these songs! Sources of the Self is an instrumental track with a killer bass line, like Tool filtered through Astral tales kind of killer, and again, that’s another band with serious prog roots. Before Your Eyes features guest vocalist Alejandra B.G. and it’s an atmospheric slow build with a spectacular chorus.
A New Horizon starts the decent toward the end of the album, but it’s not holding back any punches. It’s another slow burn that builds into multi-layered harmonies and a scale that’s breathtaking. Massive Hyperdrive is another well layered track, with a fast paced beat, and synth hooks that are so catchy that other artists might be tempted to sell lesser used limbs for access to them. Epilogue: Earth closes out Landing on such an optimistic high that you can’t help but smile as the album comes to an end. Astral Tales has created quite a journey and I urge everyone to come along for the ride. The artwork you get with the album is worth the purchase by itself! Want some insight into the story being told here? Buy the album!
But wait, we’re not done here! Nope, we still have a full interview with Astral Tales as part of our big Synthwave Sunday feature. It’s a doozy, with tons of great insights, a lot of great information about the album, and so much more. Without any more delay, I introduce you to, Astral Tales:
Echosynthetic: What is the Astral Tales story? Who is the man behind the music?
Astral Tales: Astral Tales was born as some kind of crazy project by a rock musician who wanted to express himself in a different way. AT has existed for around 10 years now but it was officially opened to the public in 2016, so to speak. At the beginning it was just a chest box where all my musical experiments ended up. As time went on, it evolved into something more specific and I started to feel more focused on what I wanted to achieve with this project. The result of that process is what made Landing possible.
Echosynthetic: Landing came out at the end of last year. How happy are you with the album?
Astral Tales: Landing has been one of the most challenging yet satisfying projects I have been involved in. It was a challenge because it is the first electronic music release I have ever made, which means I had to learn a lot of new production techniques I was not familiarized with… On the other hand, I had a lot of fun creating its universe, characters and scripting the story. A lot of it fell by the wayside as I did not want it to become a hand holding experience. The listener had to play its part with his own interpretation of the story too. In any case I wanted to include some hints and extra information that ended up in The Illustrated Story included in the album digital download. I am very happy with it because, after all hard work and struggle, it has been a very rewarding experience and people seem to enjoy the album overall.
Echosynthetic: What is your writing process like?
Astral Tales: It varies a lot from project to project. On Landing it is all about the story, so the process required a strong connection between the songs and I had to think globally when I wrote it. It was not only important to keep coherence in the story-line but to print different moods to the songs to clearly distinguish the different chapters of the tale. To do so I went from darkness to light to establish the evolution of both the story and its main character: Red Iris. That contrast and is very evident if you compare the first to the second half of the album.
Echosynthetic: What do you use in the studio to record?
Astral Tales: I use Reaper as my DAW. For synths and drums, I work almost entirely in the box. In the case of guitar sounds I use a Kemper Profiler Amplifier. For guitars… It really depends on the song. On The Ascent solo I used a lovely white Jimmy Hendrix Stratocaster. On End of the Age an acoustic guitar…
Echosynthetic: Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with?
Astral Tales: If it is all about dreaming… I would love to work with Jean Michael Jarre, Hans Zimmer… However, if I had to choose someone from the scene, it might be Carpenter Brut, Volkor X, Perturbator… There is so much talent out there… Too many choices!
Echosynthetic: What do you listen to when you aren’t recording?
Astral Tales: It varies a lot: jazz, rock, electro… The album I have been listening a lot lately is One Quiet Night by Pat Metheny… Unluckily, I do not listen as much music as I would like to lately to be honest. When I am not writing, I am recording someone else. I guess the worst part of working with music is that you ears are constantly busy!
Echosynthetic: Guilty pleasure song you secretly jam out to?
Astral Tales: Well, I guess I am the kind of guy at the party that proudly jams guilty pleasure songs! So no secrets at all! Seriously, I do not really have anything to regret when it comes to music. If I like it, I share it. Even if that makes me look like a weirdo!
Echosynthetic: Do you have a musical background?
Astral Tales: I have been playing guitar since I was a teenager. Self-taught, basically… We created this high school band where we played Nirvana covers and after that I felt interested on other styles and started to record my own songs… Nowadays I play in some local bands, record and produce other bands and write songs for Astral Tales.
Echosynthetic: What drew you into synthwave?
Astral Tales: I remember the first time I listened to Synthwave… I did not know what it was and I can not remember the first song I heard but it was so ironic… Retro music that felt fresh and new to my ears. It made me think how boring music is nowadays in mass media and how this small community of producers was having this kind of musical rebellion by creating amazing music that is almost the opposite of the current radio formats. I was hooked ever since.