Album Review - "Courage" by Sonic Gap

A blissful synthwave album containing of the purest sounds and feels, fleshed out from start to finish.

4 years ago

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A little about Sonic Gap:

Swedish artist Sonic Gap has been writing and playing songs since the mid '90s. In 2001 he started his own project, followed by his first album in 2011, and more in 2012 and 2016. Mr. Gap then decided to pursue a more electronic sound in 2017 and released his first electronic album "Coffee" in 2018. With hundreds of songs made and many more recorded, he's not lacking in material for more albums. His instrument of choice is the guitar, so you'll hear nice riffs and accompaniments throughout his music.

Mind the gap, and let's check out the album "Courage":

Released November 29th, 2019, "Courage" is loaded with 12 tracks of what I'd say is pure synth goodness. I've listened to this album several times, and it just gets better and better. It's easy listening, energetic, atmospheric, and moving all at the same time. Take Tangerine Dream or Vangelis, sprinkle in some '80s new wave, a little '70s funk, the odd chiptune, blend it all together, and you have yourself a synthwave meal fit for a king. You'll find instrumentals and vocals throughout the album, something to appeal to any taste or mood.

Let's delve into the beautiful synth-laden songs on this release:

"A New Life" - Kicking off with a beautiful synth melody that drops into a somewhat haunting backing, this song reminds me so much of "Life In Mono" by Mono. My eyes start to well up, but then you get a sample of a woman's voice advertising life on a new world, followed up by the french translation ("Life in Mono" similarity again). It's the first track on the album, and it's my favourite, hands down.

"Funky Artifacts" - Clearly from the title of this song, it features some early '80s funk sounds with Mr. Gap's cool new wave vocal style. Something about it reminds me of a Duran Duran track. I think it's the chorus and the inclusion of an electric guitar complementing the synths. Cool use of filter effects spice it up and a nice breakdown two thirds into the tune make this an enjoyable listen.

"Tetris Life" - A nice pace with crystal clear synth melodies and driving rhythm, this entry features judicial use of vocoding to give it a slight cyberpunk feel. It's all about the "life puzzle", and how you must survive. This tune transitions well into the next one.

"Highway 1" - Arpeggiated synths feature in this slightly more uptempo track, but you then get some darker, more "Giallo" chorus bits. It makes for a nice contrast. Like many of the songs on the album, this is perfect background listening to a book or whatever else you may be doing.

"Set and Forget" - I have a soft spot for those "mallwave" sounds from the early '80s. This track jumps right into the feels, featuring Sonic Gap's vocals over melodies and sounds that scream retro. Slight pitch bends and a happy ditty make me think of montages featuring shopping malls, amusement parks, and old commercials.

"Neon Lights" - I think this song really shows off Sonic's skills with synths. Varied sounds, layered melodies, and vocals blend so well. It has a slight Erasure sound on the little high notes.

"Momentum" - Yet another tune that evokes the Mono sound, this oozes melancholy, yet at the same time, something euphoric or hopeful. Released as a single earlier in the year, it is one of my favourites from Sonic Gap. This belongs in a movie soundtrack.

"Barking" - Now this is a weird, catchy, slightly pop song. Even now, I'm singing "because we're barking....barking......barking....." in my head. A fun romp with great production and the requisite vocoded backings put a smile on your face.

"Influencer" - This track features some chippy sounds layered over a great blend of synths. I highly recommend you listen to it loud. It just washes over you. Two thirds of the way in, a break happens with plenty of filter going on to make any synthy soul happy.

"Shadow Man" - Here we have some excellent '80s sounds featuring Sonic's hands on a guitar, with retro computer bleeps and great vocals. This could be a theme song from some '80s TV show.

"Birds" - Digital bird sounds score this driving beat, with soft digitized vocals and Mr. Gap's excellent use of multiple channels of synth bliss. Pitch bends return here. I feel a strong resemblance to Kraftwerk throughout this track.

"No Guts No Glory" - The final song on the album drops into Sonic's vocals over what resembles a New Order creation. The chorus features great backing chords, and there are subtle claps throughout. Much like the "Barking" track earlier on the album, the lyrics are repetitive (in a good way) and stick in your head. The tune gently fades out, wrapping up the album.

Let me say in conclusion that this album is nothing but pure quality. Sonic Gap flexes his production skills on every track, and the end result is something you hit play on, and before you know it, the album is over and you are left thinking "wait...I want more!". As I stated before, I listened to this first while reading a book, then again while toiling away at work, and then again riding the subway. Every listen got better and better, and the music perfectly scores whatever you find yourself doing. It's not Outrun, it's not Darksynth, it's not Dreamwave, nor is it Synthpop. Genres are a delicate subject to address, but if I were to declare and stand by a statement, it would be that Courage is synthwave in its purest form. The sounds and samples, the technique used in the production, the effects, all of it screams retro. Couple all that with Sonic Gap's skilled talents, and the end result is an outstanding, fleshed out, quality release.

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Neon Fawkes

Published 4 years ago