Scandroid Review: It’s Not The Past, Exactly, But It Sounds Like The Future.

Ah, Klayton.

An image of Klayton, front man of the band Scandroid.
Klayton, a ridiculously prolific artist

A man of many styles that still manages to enthrall and inspire even to this day, twenty years after his Circle of Dust debut. In his various guises, he has penned industrial music, more melodic songs, slightly more metal sounds and then some.

For this album, he travels to his roots. To that time in the eighties when New Wave ruled supreme and no one could see anything but synthesizers for miles around.The kings of this genre have to be Depeche Mode, of course, but many bands followed in their footsteps or tried their approaches to greater or lesser success. And Klayton - as Scandroid - has learned from those teachings, taking the sound of the old songs and infusing them with his own slightly modern touch.

The album cover features a moody image of "Red," a character in the Scandroid Universe, posing dramatically while the Scandroid logo and Icon are featured in the background.
Neon, neon everywhere. A homage to the 80's.

The record starts with an ominous soundscape in the form of the song “2517.” If I could say one thing about this, it’s that I love the throb of it. The sheer, sultry flow of it and I kind of wish he would go in this direction a little more - just lean into that sort of sound that surrounds you all the way from your feet to your head. Lots of the rest of the album isn’t like this at all, and it’s a shame, too, because there’s so much sense of place in this opening song that it’s hard to parse it apart from the what happens next.

And what happens next is a reminder of just how nuanced dance music used to be during the eighties. Klayton pulls out all the stops as the next few songs pass by in a blur of four-to-the-floor beats and fine, swirling synths that play to the strengths of the songs they’re in.

Some of these songs aren’t new - and, in fact, that’s par for the course with nearly all of Scandroid’s output to date. He will put out little feelers. Little teasers of what’s to come and then incorporate those into the full-scale project, so if you’re remotely into his music, there’s a good chance you heard “Salvation Code” long before it found its way onto this album. [The same is true of “Datastream” and “Empty Streets.”

The back cover of the album features a cityscape and the song names on the right.  It is very 80's inspired in terms of it's neon colour choice and blocky fonts.
A great, moody back cover.

What is new is both good and underdeveloped at the same time. While the SONGS themselves are strong and provide a lot of oomph to the cause, the actual flesh and blood of the album - the thematic tie-together - feels a little disjointed and bereft of flesh. Which is a pity. Scandroid is more about sound and soundscapes than trying to tell a cohesive, exact narrative as might have been suggested by the little story that dropped before the album went live. So there’s hints of ideas here that could be expounded upon. A robot named ATOM 7K. Another named E.V.E. Red, searching for the Salvation Code in amongst the ruins of the past and the Neo-Tokyo cityscape towering over him. The idea of a Datastream that’s a little like a Matrix or a more modern internet looming above it all.

All of this is wonderfully evocative, but it never does enough with the actual storyline. If you were here because you were hoping that this would be a Klayton record that’s also a concept album, well...there’s hints of that. Just not enough to make it stick.

If you’re here for great beats and complex, many-layered synths, though,’ve come to the right place. Klayton treats the eighties and eighties-sounding music with obvious reverence and respect, making an album which he says he has wanted to make for MANY years now. Anyone who appreciates that sort of music will love what he has done here - right up to the point where he has included just the instrumentals for those that are solely into that aural experience without the vocals layered on top, though, I do have to say, if there’s ONE song that should be heard in it’s vocal format, then I’d have to suggest “Probots and the Robophobes.” [Fittingly, this is a “Scandroid” track “featuring” “Circle of Dust.”]

As for the visual output, this is mostly great with Klayton. While much of the production is very low-key, it’s JUST low-key enough to fit the ambiance of the music that he’s made for it, so the lyric videos for songs like “Neo-Tokyo” are spot on.

The only really bad spots on display here are the slight misfires - and there’s two on this particular record. On it’s own and by itself, the video for and the cover of “Shout” are OK. The video’s more interesting because of it’s midway point, but the song doesn’t feel...reinvented enough? Scandroid has now done a few covers like this and of the ones that exist, the most interesting has been the “Star Wars” theme. Sadly, “Shout” just seems like a pale imitation of a formerly powerful song. If I’d had my way, I would have replaced this on the album with something more Scandroid derived.

The other very mild misfire isn’t so much a musical one as a visual one. “Eden” is a fantastic song that sends off the record in a great way, but as a video, it falls completely flat. There’s something awfully barren and awfully tame about the visuals on offer that make it underwhelming. But if you NEVER watch the video, you’ll be fine.

Should you buy this album?

If you liked the music of the eighties and you’re enjoying the NewRetroWave revival that’s going around right now, then I believe this is a wonderful choice. It is also a great way to ease into that particular scene if you’re new to it.

If you hated the “fake sounding” synths that “shouldn’t be allowed in bands” in the eighties, because GUITARS ARE REAL INSTRUMENTS, MAN. Then...yeah. You’re not going to like this at all.

If you’re just tired of modern pop and you want to branch into something that’s LIKE pop, but has more interesting stuff going on, then I’d look into this, too. But I’d listen to a couple of songs before buying in. Songs I recommend are: “2517,” “Probots and the Robophobes” and “Salvation Code.”

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