Machines make electronic music. It’s all combinations of ones and zeros. But that doesn’t mean the sound has to have the distant, calculated coldness of synth pioneers Gary Numan and Kraftwerk, or only appeal to the sweaty, energy drink–swilling hordes that flock to Skrillex. It can be warm and inviting, even when venturing into far-off space. On his latest album Syn-Æsthetic, Vox Mod (aka Scot Porter) delivers electronic music that feels alive instead of inhuman.
Syn-Æsthetic could double as the soundtrack to satellites soaring through the cosmos, with its collection of lush compositions—soft swells and high-pitched electro-chirping. It’s easy to go into a trance when listening to tracks like “Prismatic” and “Quenched Consciousness.” While Vox Mod can create stunning sonic universes on his own, the album’s diversity comes from the variety of guest performances by Seattle hip-hop and indie-rock artists. “Iridescent Asteroid Mists” has bite thanks to Palaceer Lazaro’s (aka Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces) gritty raps, while Rude Boutique offers up more introspective hip-hop poetry on “In the Temple Where I Found Self.” Anna Marie’s rhythmic chanting on “Particle” echos like a sci-fi hymn. Eighteen Individual Eyes’ Irene Barbaric sings sweetly on “Life Forms,” transforming the staccato synth and throbbing bass into a dance pop jam. And the album’s closer, “Ecophony Infinitum,” gets a touch of smooth sensuality thanks to a performance by the album’s coproducer Erik Blood. The most distinctive contribution, however, comes on “Æon + Trevor.” The track includes a reflective spoken-word performance written by Porter from the perspective of Trevor Goodchild, a character from the cult animated sci-fi show Æon Flux, and it’s actually performed by Goodchild’s voiceover actor John Rafter Lee.
Budget cuts at NASA may mean we’re sending fewer people into space, but Syn-Æsthetic offers listeners a much cheaper alternative to get lost in the great beyond.
May 19 at 9, Barboza, $8