Aion Records (label)
20 August 2021 (released)
21 August 2021
Electronic vocal manipulation is more prevalent now than ever before, however, it is no new concept. Before its near-ubiquitous use in pop music today in the form of autotune and a plethora of other automatic digital manipulation plug-ins, talk boxes and vocoders warped voices into futuristic synthetic hybrids. These analog devices gave artists like Peter Frampton, Pink Floyd, Daft Punk, and Kraftwerk an otherworldly sheen to their vocals all while integrating musically with the songs. The debate rages on to this day over its place in music. Most pop fans will eagerly lap up any new manipulation no matter how sloppy or out-of-place it sounds while purists will scoff at any brief semblance of an autotuned cadence. As with most things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. When used artfully and judiciously, vocoder can elevate a track creating this beautiful fusion of voice and instrument not possible without.
Nightwalk is the debut solo EP from Brooklyn electro-indie artist Paul Feder. The vocalist and producer uses the vocoder to merge his voice with layered, arpeggiated keys to create sparkling, dreamy synthpop scenery. Since 2010, Feder has been creating music with various electronic projects from the dance party-inducing Pico Fermi to the sitar-centric Charcole Federation. What began as a session of haphazard experimentation by himself grew to a collaboration with the inspired minds of fellow Brooklyn synth-wielding industrial crossover group Jane In Space. The result is a lofty record that flows between observer and observed in a slick piece of Euro-tinged electronica.
The lead single 'Lose My Mind' has strong late summer jam vibes. The airy synths and persistent kick capture the mood of those lazy August days. Still out for fun but with one eye on the fall and who will remain in our circle in the months ahead. The vocoder voice creates warm, rich chords with the soundscape that drifts between playful and wistful. Feder looks for his next mistake musing on the idea of falling recklessly for his next paramour. The creamy beach day production mixed with the harmonically rich vocals recalls Underworld's 'Ova Nova' from their laid-back 2016 release Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future. The title track demonstrates how Feder has one foot firmly planted in pop sensibilities with the other in experimental electronic territory. Familiar glowing production choices that hook the everyday casual pop fan are cut with irregularly-timed arpeggiators and artful swells. Certain synth tones will definitely trigger the autonomic memory of EDM fans.
'Desert Run' starts to veer the album more into left field with a Thom Yorke-influenced sonic painting. The groove is both calming and progressive simultaneously with the build to live drums coming as an inflection point for the record. Feder's vocal layers are given added gravitas with the crescendo of lively drums. 'Tooth and Heart' and 'In Floodlights' provide more light, danceable fare to round out the album. Like New Order minus the depression.
Paul Feder has created an EP that fires all the synapses for the pop crowd while adding in a few bells and whistles to intrigue the more involved electro fan. An album that feels like the faded pastels and neons of a fleeting summer going up in smoke. Here the vocoder is a deliberately used tool that is integrated into the songwriting process rather than a cheap effect tossed on simply for the hell of it. Vocal processing is everywhere but how you use it makes a difference.