I’ve been listening to a ton of electronic albums lately, mainly because so many of them are being released right now. Two albums launched recently that I think deserve a spotlight, though I don’t have my normal 10-ish paragraphs worth of words to discuss them. So here’s a double feature for the new records from Rashida Prime and Michał Łapaj.
Michał Łapaj is best known as the keyboardist for Riverside since their second album, Second Life Syndrome. He’s been in it for the long haul. I think the progressive rock space, however, hasn’t allowed him to shine light on one of his passions: synthesizers. He did provide us a generous helping with 2021’s Are You There, but much of that album skewed either towards progressive rock/pop or towards ambient. Sessions, however, is pure synth and unadulterated progressive electronic music.
Sessions was something of a surprise release; he kept mentioning it, but then sort of dumped it on us. Because of this, I didn’t manage to hear it until recently, though it released on February 22nd. I’m glad I made the time, though, because this album is heavenly. If you love synth, Michał provides all sorts of tones and textures that spiral around and flirt with each other very satisfyingly. There is a dark atmosphere that pervades the experience, too, that establishes the synthetic melodies starkly and blatantly in the limelight. They are the whole show, if that makes sense.
I love the layering on this album. Michał masterfully mixes and matches various synth tones, some being rather deep and full of darkness, and others being playful and bright. These tones, though, work together to create layered, engaging tracks with hints of improvisation and also calculated precision.
Sessions has five tracks and is about 40 minutes long. My favorite tracks are “Session 1” and “Session 4”, though I love them all. “Session 1” feels like a fountain of light and perfect contrasts, and it lasts about 10 minutes. I love the way Michał punches the darker chords with subtle power, and the beat that emerges works so well with the various rhythms that live here. “Session 4” has a purposeful cyberpunk feeling to it. It is the shortest track, so plays similar to a single in some ways. I love how rich it feels, how deep and dystopian. And as the track progresses, it only gets more involved and more interesting.
Again, all of the tracks are great. I like the spunky feeling of “Session 3” and the last few minutes of “Session 2” for its grand melodies. “Session 5” is more ambient, though it does have a catchy rhythm that emerges, and so it ends the album ponderously. The whole experience is an impressive one, and I hope Michał explores these sounds more in the future.
I was a big fan of Rashida Prime’s 2020 album Plastic Void. What an album that still is! I also liked 2016’s Damaged Interface, so the track record of this artist is certainly fantastic thus far. I was excited, then, to hear Chroma when it released on April 15th, and I wasn’t disappointed. Rashida Prime is an artist from Estonia, and that’s just about all I know about them. They are rather mysterious and have only a Twitter profile, as far as social media accounts go. They are hidden, so to speak.
That is not how I would describe their music, however. This is dreampunk, a stylish and kinetic sort of electronic music. I say “kinetic” because it is always shifting and whirling into new dimensions and new worlds, shifting tones and textures in gratifying ways. However, the music also features subtlety and soothing space. Somehow, Rashida Prime is able to combine those things into one cohesive, crystalline package, and I suppose that is why I am so astounded by their work.
What we have here, then, is an album that can feel like sonic fireworks, or it can feel like a relaxing void of peace and serenity. It all depends on your mood, I think. Chroma has 10 tracks, and all of them feature a dreamy, tech-driven tone with drifting visions, waves of tranquility, and off kilter beats. This album truly washes over the listener with both bleakness and brightness, energy and harmony, and technical tones and heartfelt moments.
My favorite tracks are “Reanimation Core”, “Before Gravity”, “Shadows Over The Sea”, “Sonic Transfer”, and “Nebula Temple”. I like them all for different reasons. “Reanimation Core” is the strident opener with lots of tricks and colors up its sleeve. “Before Gravity” has something of a harsher tone, and it doubles down on its selected weight with beautiful execution. “Shadows Over The Sea”, though, is an ambient vacuum of pure bliss. Every track seems to have its own thing.
“Sonic Transfer” is one of those tracks that builds slowly and cautiously; but soon it becomes a vivid sun of bright and ominous feelings, one that is difficult to escape. Maybe my favorite overall, “Nebula Temple” is the closer, and it has such a lush and pleasant sound; it honestly sounds celestial and brave somehow. I love that about it. Overall, Chroma is a fantastic work and a strong follow up to Plastic Void. I can’t wait to hear even more from this artist.
Find Michał Łapaj online:
Find Rashida Prime online: