Echo City by Kaleido Drive
Shall we play a game? You check the NewRetroWave YouTube page to get a groovy tune to start your day. You see a recent upload accompanied by an image of something like a young woman with a katana and mirrors for eyes riding a lightcycle through Tokyo under the light of neon. The song starts playing. What are some of the words that come to mind about the hypothetical song you are listening to? I'd bet it would take less than 10 words before you use some form of "chill." While I absolutely love the chilled out synthwave jams NRW provides, one of the most unique and enjoyable characteristics of Kaleido Drive's debut album is the high energy that carries a lot of the songs.
"Last Call Redwalk Districk" is a solid choice for an opener for Echo City as it establishes the aforementioned energy pretty quickly with its quick tempo and stuttering synths. The song really shines when the erratic chiptune-inspired sounds start taking over. Overall the track feels like it belongs in the soundtrack of some crossover between Mega Man and a William Gibson novel.
The following track, "Razor-Fingered Mercenary" is my favorite on the album. While the remainder of the album ranges from good to great, the second track is something truly special. It is a very upbeat song with a lot of surprising quirks. Just as you become used to what a certain section of the song is doing something out of nowhere happens and catches you off guard. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Kaleido Drive had played in a metalcore or pop-punk band. Moments in this song feel a lot like breakdowns from both genres, and the effect is excellent. "Over The Beach" also has this kind of breakdown-esque sound, as well as slight chip-tune flourishes and stutter effects. Halfway through the song there is a run that goes from snare to kick to snare to kick in such a way that I would be very surprised to hear it wasn't written on a drum set.
I wouldn't call any of the songs on this album bad, but "Modular Nights" and "Nineteen Eighty Drive" are two of the weakest offerings that the album has. They are good at showcasing what sounds like a strong hip-hop influence, but the latter in particular gets a little redundant with its melody.
My earlier focus on the high energy of Echo City is not to discredit the chilled songs. "Skylight Girl" is another album highlight and it finds the album at its most subdued with an extremely interesting opening beat. I can see "Liquid Criminal" being a divisive song within the community. Some of the quirks in it can be off-putting. That being said, it works more often than it doesn't and I found myself listening to the song multiple times on my first listen through the album. "Her Future" and "His Future" both close the album. This is both a blessing and a curse as the songs compliment each other really well, but I found myself enjoyed "Her Future" in its entirety. While "His Future" is a good song, "Her Future" is a phenomenal song that brings together a lot of what made the album so fun in the first place.
Of course a lot of this is nitpicking on an extremely solid and exciting debut album. This is a debut album that has a very distinct musical identity and sounds like it could have been made by someone working within the scene for years. With some beautiful artwork and really exciting songs I definitely recommend it.