Listening Center is the project of big synth guy David Mason, who recorded these ‘synth essays’ over a period of two years. The tone is playful throughout, dabbling into Radiophonic Workshop territory as well as all manner of melancholic 80’s nostalgia. Mason knows his machines and his material, and Retrieving is a very satisfying synth listen. On Polytechnic Youth.
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- Retrieving by Listening Center
Something about the 80s synth sound employed by David K. Mason on his latest album as Listening Center reminds me of popcorn. His go to textures and melodies create a very vivid image of popcorn bouncing about inside a pot, sat on a stove. This is the energy that drives Retrieving, bouncy and unpredictable, and it’s the energy that makes the songs here so fun.
Retrieving is released by Polytechnic Youth, and fans of the label will know the score by now. The album is toe to tip influenced by the sort of nostalgia that is very in at the moment: old educational TV shows, the humble VHS tape, video game soundtracks from before the 1983 crash. Mason writes that these tracks aren’t only meant to evoke the period, but bring are memories into question. Of course I’m at something of a loss here as someone who was born in the 90s but even I’m finding some of this uncannily familiar. If you’d told me ‘Palinopsia’ was from an old SNES game I’d managed to play I probably would've believed you. That’s how good Mason is at composing those sorts of melodies.
What is easy to miss is how good his drum programming is. Though never obtrusive, the drums are always a seamlessly integrated addition to the tracks. This best comes across on ‘Motif 684’ which sees the drums pitch up part way through to help ramp up the tension.
Though I try my best to resist being nostalgic for things I wasn't alive for, stuff like this does make it a bit harder.
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