Symbol is Christopher Royal King, founder and lead guitarist of This Will Destroy You. Online Architecture is an ambient voyage and is a fair way out of the instrumental ball park, yet it is just as captivating. Inspired by King’s travels in East Asia, Online Architecture walks the line between ‘foreboding, yet to be inhabited ghost cities’ and the routine chaos of the city street. Despite the promise of a pregnant population, the music feels isolated, void of people and strangely alien. The music detours through neon-lit, urban synths and through silent, titanic structures that have yet to serve any real purpose.
Symbol’s music is something of a lo-fi mystery, something organic and touchingly beautiful. Its slightly exotic scent lingers long after it has finished. It has the body of the Orient, but it also has a North American soul. The two bleed hazily into each other, burying its past life.
On “Tracer”, the transparent synths are very much alive. A flourishing fountain of synth ensures a high degree of analogue activity, which perhaps represents the body heat of the city. A soothing, meditative atmosphere exists despite the crush of notes. They flicker and flash like the traffic light trinity, gently washed in an apricot ambient haze. Sparkling melodies that are as clear as glass reach skyscraper heights, and the accompanying video is transcendental, searing its emerald lines and hexagonal shapes into the music. Laser beams of light illuminate upon the phantoms of the fantasia, yet it casually glints with a sharp melodic clarity despite the chaos.
The fog shrouded statues of “Shadow Harvesting” are eerie, cooler sights, with lower, deeper notes letting us know that the border into unknown territory has been unintentionally crossed. Mist covers the tranquilized melody as if it were really the consuming mind-fog that can overtake a tourist in an unfamiliar place. The underlying drone vibrates, rolling low clouds over the disguised temple. “New China” has another eerie vibe that never settles. It creeps around the music, whispering of the unused land and its potential but really concerning itself with the exploitation of the countryside. The track turns in on itself as if it struck by negativity, never wanting to develop any further. The melody becomes sterile and toxic, the first laid stones on a nuclear test site.
Lost forests shelter strange plants and exotic flowers. A vast, mountainous range opens up, and to the naked eye the plain stretches out forever. Under the scorching eye of the sun, King’s tape reels mutate, shrivel and in some instances completely disappear. The uncertainty of the future is voiced through a cloudy, stabbed note that repeats over and over and over. A strange aura hovers over its sense of national identity and its lineage that has led up to this point, but Symbol makes sure that music holds onto its status as the home of the brave. (James Catchpole)