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[Album Review] Scandroid – Dreams in Monochrome

From Take It & Break It Vol. 1-3, through to The Complete Cellout and Space & Time (Expansion), Klayton (known more commonly under Celldweller, Circle of Dust or Scandroid) has always been rather enthusiastic towards the idea of a damn good fun remix album. Perhaps due to how openly electronic rock lends itself to being broken down and built back up from scratch, or simply as a result of the creator’s own charismatic approach to the remixes themselves, a fervent attitude has steadily grown from the initial remix contests of early Celldweller releases, Klayton’s own founded label FiXT becoming something of a popular hub for eager, lesser known artists, looking to stand out amongst others by taking part in what ultimately boils down to sharing a labor of love.

Scandroid is absolutely no different in this regard; fondly referred to as something of a “love letter to 80s music”, studio efforts Scandroid (2016) and Monochrome (2017) embrace all that is retro and neon in the modernized synthwave venture, easily Klayton‘s most playful personality among his multifaceted creative endeavors. And, keeping in line with what has been rapidly becoming something of a tradition for major FiXT releases, the well received Dreams of Neo-Tokyo soon swiftly came to light, serving as the remix counterpart for debut album Scandroid, with Dreams in Monochrome later announced to be following in the wake of the project’s sophomore effort.

Now, the thing to bear in mind when considering any form of remix is rather simple; Take It & Break It? Absolutely, but whether or not the track is taken in a direction that shares overall similarities with its original incarnation, or instead is transformed into something virtually unrecognizable, can be either a huge positive or overwhelming negative. Yes, it’s obvious to say it, but it’s how the remix is handled that ultimately effects the outcome, and if Dreams of Neo-Tokyo did anything right, it was certainly how well the material was handled. Take Dance with the Dead‘s stellar ‘Neo-Tokyo’ remix for example; adding a far more rock orientated spin to the track alongside an absolute blast of a guitar solo, the track’s calmer original counterpart re-emerged as the kind of track that wants to hit, and hit hard. Or perhaps look no further than Waveshaper‘s ‘Eden’ remix, taking things back to a far more reserved level, disregarding the electric guitar distortion and opting for an immersive, gorgeous synthesizer-laden soundscape. It’s exactly this approach that made Dreams of Neo-Tokyo such an enthralling addition to the still young Scandroid project, a labor of love becoming an adoring labor of many.

Very thankfully, it’s apparent almost immediately that Dreams in Monochrome is continuing this frame of mind, and as soon as Michael Oakley‘s ‘Afterglow’ remix begins, sweet, popping synthesizers and eventual electric guitar riffs entering the fray, it’s admittedly very hard to suppress a gleeful smile in anticipation for what comes next. VHS Dreams‘ re-engineered incarnation of ‘Rendezvous’ swiftly follows, staying stylistically relatively true to the original while also adding plenty of personality to keep things interesting, and before long Bret Autrey, (known more commonly under Blue Stahli, and previous Dreams of Neo-Tokyo contributor with his ‘Shout’ remix), emerges to present his latest Sunset Neon offering, remixing the titular ‘Monochrome’. It’s a fun, 70s funk-esque mix that completely radicalizes its rather dramatic twin, much of the tense atmosphere instead swapped out for a far more lively approach to things.

Further reconstructing Monochrome, Robots With Rayguns brings ‘A Thousand Years’ into more downtempo territory, opting to focus on subtler instrumentation and somewhat moodier atmosphere, a stylistic direction that Synthatiger‘s ‘The Veil’ remix also chooses to tread, while the double-barrelled offering of ‘Thriller’ remixes (compliments of PYLOT and Robert Parker) offer a fairly stark contrast to each other; PYLOT immediately kicks things off with werewolf howls and before long the track has plunged into 80s horror clichés with a funk driven bassline and wailing synthesizers, while Robert Parker takes things into far more conventional, modern house territory. Further forwards, Arcade High succeeds in drenching ‘2518’ in your favorite 8-bit arcade theme, and as odd as it initially sounds, it actually works very effectively mixed in with the more cinematic musical elements and dramatic vocals of the original track. Closing the album, ‘Future Bloodline (Magic Sword remix), spectacularly presents one final epic chapter before things come to an end, very nearly acting as the perfect culmination of virtually everything the album represents, with moody bass work, scorching electric guitar leads and enthralling synthesizers charging forward through the mix.

Overall, it’s evident the album has already thrown itself wholeheartedly into exactly what made its predecessor such an enjoyable compilation of material, but it’s also worth noting Dreams in Monochrome isn’t just restricted to the material of it’s namesake; Turboslash‘s ‘Time Crime’ remix instead originates from a 2018 single, released in promotion for what will eventually become the third Scandroid studio effort. Overall, it’s generally a rather faithful remix, maintaining the gorgeous saxophone work and much of what instrumentally featured in the original, but strips back some of the more cosmic synthesizer work and opts for a grittier, more raw direction stylistically. Also featuring from Scandroid are further remixes ‘Neo-Tokyo (Chromatique remix)’, ‘Aphelion (Battlejuice remix)’, ‘Neo-Tokyo (Autoreiv remix)’, ‘Awakening With You (Turboslash remix)’, and ‘Shout (DJ Stranger remix)’. It could perhaps be argued that these are all here to provide some padding for the album, maybe even risking detracting from the Monochrome side of things, but all in all these simply add further material to an already abundantly enjoyable assortment of contributions, and if anything proves that a remix album is the perfect place to forgive a little repetition here and there.

As a whole, Dreams in Monochrome is the kind of album that is perhaps best described as “doing exactly what it sets out to do”; the adoring endorsement of all things neon and retro, that Monochrome so enthusiastically endeavored to utilize, are all just as prominently seen throughout Scandroid‘s second remix album. Perhaps what delights most of all is the sheer amount of variety throughout the 15-track album, from disco to funk, synthwave to electronic rock, and there’s certainly something for everyone within the depths of Dreams in Monochrome. Essentially, it’s the perfect follow up to its predecessor, fantastically produced and exactly what it needed to be; a damn good fun remix album.

Dreams in Monochrome releases April 20th. Pre-order now via FiXT;

https://fixtstore.com/collections/scandroid

M. Stoneman

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