Since its founding Dark Entries Records, named after a 7” by goth legends Bauhaus, has remained committed to releasing a mix of archival reissues and new music often oriented around dark, synthesizer-driven vibes. In April the label put out its 300th release, Panoramic Colorsound, a triple LP by a trio of artists working under the name The Creative Technology Consortium.
CtC is comprised of Chicago-based producer/musician Traxx, Andrew Bisenius (who also releases music as Wav Fuzz), and Jason Letkiewciz (who has released music under many, many names). Drawing on their various musical backgrounds and affinities which range from house to ambient, and from more experimental forms to synthwave, Panoramic Colorsound takes film and television scores from the 80s and 90s as a sonic starting point. The album is unrelentingly nostalgic and heavily narrative, its familiar soundscapes making imaginative trips and strong visualizations pretty unavoidable. Throughout, the trio blur the lines between minimalist and maximalist pop, layering percussion effects and synthesizers, sending them rippling and fading across the stereo field.
Track titles hint at the fun house mirror through which the trio are filtering their audiovisual influences, see “The Monaco Falcon” or “Palm Tree Inferno,” but, taking a cue from the many online music genres which have mined the music of the past over the last decade (vaporwave, chillwave and beyond), there’s a dystopian spin to these retro sounds. Even songs with a more lethargic air, like “Initiative,” are imbued with menace thanks to a sinister melody plucked out by electric guitar. The album’s sound leans more to the gothic and the mysterious than the chill or pleasant.
Panoramic Colorsound is a beat heavy album with many tracks dominated by unrelenting use of drum pads, claps, and kicks. This is the soundtrack for the chase but also maybe the dance. “Nyte Sequence” and “A Retro Vice” (with its infectiously funky hook) could easily soundtrack a dance floor.
With a run-time just shy of two hours though, there is still room for some affective range— the soft drum pads and a swooning electric guitar on “Beautifully Polluted Sunset” are pleasant and vibey, while dank synthesizer, machine-like percussion, and the metallic plucking of strings on “Rapido” elicit a more foreboding visual. Occasionally tracks are allowed to linger in more ambient worlds, see “High Altitude Meditation,” as an example, but more often softer beginnings soon give way to a driving beat and soaring, steely synths.
Panoramic Colorsound is unabashedly cinematic, unrelentingly familiar and if you, like the members of CtC, were raised on the audiovisual soundtrack of 80s film and television, sort of addicting. It does however tread heavily a sonic palette that by the end of the album’s two-hours, should anyone listen to it in one sitting, becomes pretty tiring. Perhaps that is the point though: to craft dystopian library music for a future that is all the same. (Jennifer Smart)