Nightcrawler – Beware of the Humans
Darksynth for society's nervous breakdown.
Darksynth has been in vogue through much of 2016 and 2017 as many synthheads’ sub-sub-genre of choice. In a lot of ways that makes sense. After an exhausting 2016, I doubt many of us were as prepared for how emotionally taxing 2017 has been, and I think it’s safe to say that sentiment is on a global scale. Dark synth started feeling a lot less like the soundtrack to a sci-fi dystopia and more like the soundtrack to our own collective societal nervous breakdown. The caveat that plagues dark synth is that it can veer towards redundancy. A lot of the sounds and song structures can get recycled, and some of the lesser dark synth producers wind up feeling like part of a crowd.
But that’s not Nightcrawler.
The Spanish producer’s latest album, Beware of the Humans, delivers ten tracks gunning to set a standard in the scene, with each track having a wealth of strange and hypnotic sounds supplemented by generally punchy and danceable beats. Opening track “Arrival” is a great introduction to the atmospheres Nightcrawler creates through his songs, and despite the lack of a driving beat, effectively builds tension for the release of follow-up “Hell-On Earth”, which has the kind of groove and menace of a DyE song, but with a more analog aesthetic.
Mid-album highlight “Secret Society” shows Nightcrawler at his most cinematic. The first half of the track is eerie and beautiful, but very dreamy. There’s a lightness to the sounds as higher frequencies are explored and densities of reverb are varied. Midway through the track the pulsing bass and kick start up and what was dreamy and soft becomes darker and dancier. The titular track, featuring Celine from Dead Astronauts and Italy’s strangest synthwave producer Vincenzo Salvia, is an easy contender for the best of the album, with the pulsing musical track emphasizing the desperation in Celine’s voice.
The album ends on a strange note, as “Sixth Extinction” might be the weirdest track on the album. Nightcrawler eschews something sprawling or bombastic in favor of something thematically relevant to the dystopia that he sets out to paint. For fans of individual tracks or throwing all of their synth tracks on shuffle, it might be disarming, but for those that prefer the full album experience or who read the brief narrative blurbs on Bandcamp as a mental context in which they can listen to the album, the track is a natural conclusion. The constantly changing sounds and deliberate pace remind us that dystopias don’t usually get better all at once. They get worse or they fall apart.