Experiencing symptoms of Robotika....
Sounding familiar, but new at the same time Munich Syndrome sounds unlike anything else currently on the radio or in the clubs. Danceable, but not a dance band. Melodies, hooks and choruses, but not really a pop band. Heavy electronics, but not an industrial band. Eschewing current trends, Munich Syndrome looks inward for inspiration, not attempting to match momentary styles or chasing what's in vogue. A one man band that spends too much time alone?
Identity? Who we are? What we are? Where we are? These are the questions Client SS006 ponders as he explores his place in the (virtual?) world. Not a man. Not a machine. Does client SS006 work on the assembly line or was he created on the assembly line? In a world surrounded by and run by computers, Munich Syndrome touches upon electro, synth-pop, EDM, IDM, techno pop with a pinch of ambient and experimental, to take the listener on a journey of realization, acceptance, escape, while redefining a sense of self exploring the condition of Robotika.
Robotika, Munich Syndrome's fourth album, opens with the diagnosis and the program begins.
The rhythm of a heavy machine drone is soon joined by a tight digital kick and sequencers for the industrial-tinged electro synth-pop of the title track, Robotika. Expanding and opening up with keyboard washes, tightly synced bass and an 8-bit synth lead Robotika ponders the question of existence and our place in this world. Do we see the world through technology? Has technology changed the way we see and perceive the world? "The fusion of mind, and machine. Form and function, never seen, coalescing into Robotika…."
This segues into "The Future" a driving 4/4 pulsating full-on dance track that poses the question of when do we cease being open to new things and start holding onto a past that may (or may not) have existed? "Remember when you were young? The world was going to be yours? Always on the front lines, of the cultural wars. The music and the scene, were fresh and new, how nothing existed, before or after you?" Sometimes the arrogance of youth becomes the arrogance of age…
This is followed by "(I Do) The Robot", a kinetic EDM track about getting "in sync with the beat of the machine" and "dance, dance, dance, dance the night away." Melodic, dance at it's synth-pop finest! Is it dancing for enjoyment or dancing to the beat of another's drum? "Electro pop takes me straight to the top. I never ever want it to stop…"
A darker IDM tinged track, "Industry" shows a 1984-esque corporate-centric world where "conformity, (is) an essential component, always comply. Strict adherence to the rules, never ask why" and the pronouncement of "self awareness has no place, in the machine."
This leads our protagonist into a world of "Assassins." A darker world where no one is trusted and everyone is suspect. Harder, darker and denser with industrial overtones, "Assassins" is a claustrophobic space of fear. Heavy drums, angular synths and minor chords create a more oppressive atmosphere here. "Almost imperceptible, it hangs in the air, the atmosphere shifts under the weight of their stare. Acid smiles, mixed with stolen glances, their moment comes with stolen changes…"
Escape and release, "Medicated" is an ambient word of sedation and quiet. Escape can be found in many forms - drugs, drink, denial… "I want to be, medicated..."
From the haze of "Medicated" we enter "Android Dreams." Languid bass with dub-like keyboards drift into a hazy dream-state where things aren't what they appear, metaphors are mixed and time is no longer linear. A sax line drifts in, as if from another dimension... "Every night, I surrender, to a world of dreams. Memories, sounds and colors, nothing's what it seems. In a room from another life, a faded affair, I hear the music on a radio, that isn't there..."
In a word of Vinyl, or Cassettes, or even 8-Tracks, you had sides to albums. If that were to exist here, then this would be the flip side.
Alienation, isolation and a lack of understanding of how the world works is where our protagonist finds himself in "Just A Lonely Robot." Feeling as if he were abandoned in an alien world to figure it all out on his own, he attempts to make sense things. "Evenings alone listening to records, looking for some type of clues. Transmissions from another dimension, twenty-third century blues." A funky kinetic, electro-shuffle pondering "An aberration, a solitary blip, I never got the happiness chip. I don't fit in, I shouldn't be here. Sometimes I just want, to disappear."
Which leads us to "Nightlife." The need to escape and immerse yourself in something bigger than yourself, to lose yourself in the nightlife and be someone else, if only for a few hours is what this song is about. Stark minimal synth-pop that wouldn't have been out of place on a mid-period Ultravox album, "Nightlife" is a bit of a contradiction, trying to capture the melancholy that exists in the midst of a packed dance floor. "Tonight, tonight, I want to get lost in the nightlife. Tonight, tonight, I want to set myself free. Tonight, tonight, I'm lost in a sea of faces. Tonight, it feels like destiny…"
Which leads us to "Tonight." Throwing off the shackles of all the worries, cares, responsibilities, regrets and taking a page from the exuberance and innocence of new wave we charge into the heart of the city for a night of total abandon. "Take my hand, let's go out tonight, unplug and runaway, the lights of the city are calling to come out and play." Propulsive drums, sleek synths and fuzzed out bass-tones lead the charge in this upbeat song.
Next up is "Dance Again." Unshackled from the word the layers of sampled horns herald a night of complete abandon and freedom. Tightly sequenced bass and synths and boppy beats give way to a night without worries or care. "Drop the beat, move your feet, the time has come to get away. Forgot to smile, for a little while, but now we have a special day."
"Perfect Day" sums up that time after an amazing night out, and the tranquility and peace that comes shortly after. Simple analog drums and understated synths lead way to a kinetic bass run and an upbeat melody. “A day unlike any day, comes into view, for a moment, a perfect day, just for you. The grass is green, the sun is bright, for a time the world feels right. Once a year, a perfect day for you…”
Subtle electronic flourishes are the audible approximation of falling snowflakes in “Memories Drift (It’s Christmas)”, a wistful look back at what was, or what might have been. Understated bass and drums underscore the melancholy tinged melody in this quiet holiday song. “Memories drift, like snowflakes in the air, to a place in time, no longer there. The days are shorter, the nights alive with lights, memories of walks, on winter evening nights” Are the memories real, or just an idealization of what could have been?
Ambient washes and an understated analog drum machine usher in the closing piece “Robotika (Ambient)”. A return of the title track, with more emphasis on the vocal melody and sequenced synth lines, but with drums and bass significantly reduced before the song fades out.
Prognosis: “Three, two, one… exit dream-state. Containment of Robotika is unlikely. End Program.”
For this expanded edition of Robotika, three “Robot Parts” are included, showing directions the song “(I Do) The Robot” might have taken and to close things the beta version of Robotika.
Is Robotika a concept album? There was no concept when it started, but three or four songs into it, suddenly a journey seemed to present itself. Self-awareness leads to an understanding of what came before and (hopefully an indication of) what might lie ahead. Do the songs taken as a whole and listened through from start to finish tell a tale and take the listener on a journey? Perhaps. Can each song be taken individually on it’s own? Absolutely.
Munich Syndrome is: David B. Roundsley
The Mastermind Behind Munich Syndrome Talks About His Music and New CD
Robert Lawrence 23 Jul 2013
ROBOTIKA - MUNICH SYNDROME - SYNDROME SOUNDS MUSIC
Emotionless. Neutral. Repetitive. These are some of the words often described when referring to electronic music and yes this holds true when it's not done right. The trick is to start with a basic theme and then build on that thought. The end results when an artist is on the proper path are delightfully limitless. Munich Syndrome surely knows how to 'get it right' with every release thus far.
On Robotika, the multi-talented David Roundsley, takes his alter-ego Munich Syndrome's fourth release to an opportunistic new level with a slightly pop-ish direction, breaking new ground for his sound and a new concept for this artist. The most exciting development for me was the incorporation of more beats into this release. From beginning to end it came off as a fresh encounter, even though I have been well exposed to his other works.
The future of music, or I should say music portrayed in the future has always been of an electronic nature as far back as the 60s. Munich Syndrome seems to have captured that essence first presented by pioneers such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Giorgio Moroder, and Kraftwerk, while effortlessly leaving a modern taste. Roundsley has perfected a hybrid of New Age and Synthpop with just the right amount of vox vocals to compliment the carefully tuned electronic orchestrations with the Robotika project.
I was going to breakdown the individual tracks, but Robotika truly is an entire event in its whole. I will mention my favorite selection "(I Do) The Robot," which is absolute heaven while driving on an open highway. For some reason it brought to my mind the line dances on Soul Train. I close my eyes and I can envision the couples strutting their stuff in those wild 70s outfits and yes frequently doing the Robot Dance.
I had an opportunity to gather some information from the 'man behind the curtain' and I am pleased to share this with our readers:
Gaysonoma: David, in reviewing your releases there is a definite display of growth. What part of this do you feel has been your greatest stepping stone and why?
David Roundsley: Thank you. The area I have become much more comfortable with is voice manipulation. If you look at my releases chronologically there wasn't much voice used on Sensual Ambience, and jumping up to Robotika, there is a vocal element on every track.
I think the voice is a very powerful tool, but not being a singer having the ability to introduce the vocal component was very important (but challenging) to me. I'd like to build upon that and go further with the next release.
Gaysonoma: Being a one-man army must take its toll, how long does it take to complete a single track?
David Roundsley: It depends on how you clock the beginning and end. I'm continually writing in my head, but the only things I jot down are lyrics when they come to me. If I don't document something the moment I think of it, odds are it'll be gone.
Once I sit down in the studio, even if I have a very specific melody or beat in mind, once I start assembling the track, often it either goes in a completely different direction, or it becomes another song altogether.
I'll get the base down and think it's 'there,' but if I put it away for a few days, or even weeks, I end up tweaking it quite a bit and hopefully improving upon it. On average a song will take about four weeks total. Some have taken months though.
Gaysonoma: Which instrument to you find the most difficult to control or make do what you want it to do?
David Roundsley: This would be two-fold. The voice in conjunction with sampling. I'd like to have more mastery of sampling. There are two types of people in terms of learning. One being the type to thoroughly read instructions, watch tutorials, etc., the other being the type to just jump in and start pushing buttons. Sadly, I'm the type to just want to push buttons, let things rip, and see where they lead.
Gaysonoma: Of all your influences which artist has had the biggest impact in your current direction with Munich Syndrome and which piece of work do you admire the most of theirs?
David Roundsley: I will say the past few years I've been listening less and less to other artists. I went through a period where I'd be crushing on an artist or song and it would inform what I was doing on some level. With Robotika there was next to zero thought about anybody else's style or trying to fit or match up with any current trends. Robotika addresses my own feelings of alienation. I've never sought groups or organizations to join, and none have reached out to me, so I'm kind of left to my own devices, so to speak.
Gaysonoma: Robotika has a slight dance feel to many parts. Was this intentional? How has it been received by your closest fans?
David Roundsley: Yes, there was intention to bring up the BPM a bit more throughout the album. I was also aware of writing it as a whole (even though I know few people listen to an album in it's entirety). I purposely wrote some songs to as counterbalance (going from Assassins to Medicated) to the pace.
As to how it was received by fans, I'm not really sure. The last two albums were bootlegged very heavily in Russia, but this one was totally off the charts. I was getting pages and pages of sites that suddenly had the album every time I did a Google search. I'm going to take that as approval on some level.
Now being four albums out, I've found a curious trend in terms of plays and sales. When I release a new album the one that preceded it suddenly starts getting a lot of attention. I guess I need to release another album to see where Robotika actually stands!
Gaysonoma: With Electronica ever so present in popular alternative, hip-hop and dance music these days, what landscape do you envision Munich Syndrome heading to next?
David Roundsley: I have no real feel for where Munich Syndrome fits in regards to current music genres or trends. Or where it's going. Robotika was the first album done as a cohesive whole (with the exception of one song that was written a few years earlier). I didn't think about where it would fit or make any attempts to adhere to a current trend (dub step comes to mind).
I find that no matter how much I plan or think I know where things are going, once I sit down in the studio, the process takes on a life of it's own and songs often go into a direction I never envisioned. When an album is complete I'll think 'where did that come from?'
Gaysonoma: It was great to get a little sample of the working process from David Roundsley of Munich Syndrome and numerous thanks to him once again for his comments. Robotika is quite a moving occasion for your ears. I highly recommend the use of headphones for this CD to capture all the textures and layers of sounds. It's a future trip that's well worth the time invested.
March 1, 2013
While previous Munich Syndrome releases have provided ideal listening for the futuristic playboy in his high-rise penthouse flat, this latest album sees US musician David Roundsley incorporating, in many places, a more powerful & solid sound that moves closer to more traditional synthpop styles. This is particularly true during the opening exchanges with ‘Robotika (Technology Seduces)’ which is one of three versions of this track to be found here & which impresses with a powerful rhythmic backing providing the backbone for the assertive melodies which soon impose themselves in no uncertain terms. These quickly prove an important part of the album’s appeal, giving a nicely cutting edge to ‘Assassins (Take The Hit Mix)’ & the slightly darker ‘Industry (Hostile Takeover Mix) as well as the action-packed ‘Tonight.’
While some bombastic brass fanfares ensure that you are certain to follow the instruction given in the title to ‘Dance Again’! The vocodered vocals, which are another constant facet, do succeed in maintaining the slightly fantastic edge that has always been part of the MS sound, adding an almost ‘space-pop’ appeal to ‘The Future’ & a sense of fun to the ultra-infectious (I Do) The Robot’, a track you can’t help but listen to with a smile on your face although this is later contrasted by ‘Just A Lonely Robot’, the heart-rending feel of which is embellished further by some emotive sax voices.
This is one of a quartet of tracks that utilize analogue rhythms for the full-on old-school experience, the others being the short ‘Medicated’ which lays a mellow mood with its ethereal floating chords, the upbeat-sounding ‘Perfect Day’ (no, not the Lou Reed one!) & the excellent remix of ‘Android Dreams’ where more faux-saxophone voice give the piece a smokey, electro-blues-like mood. This is the closest the album comes to the MS styles of yore but it’s good to see Roundsley progressing while never losing track of what makes his music stand out from the synthpop crowd & he even manages to avoid the cheese factor that Christmas songs usually abound in during ‘Memories Drift (It’s Christmas)’, where the bells at the beginning are the only real indication of what the song is about, the track laying down a nicely laid-back feel, probably ideal for relaxing to after a big crimbo dinner!
The remaining mixes of ‘Robotika’ & three-part ‘Robot Parts’ which resemble Kraftwerk & which bring up the tail end of the album feel more like (not unwelcome) trimmings whereas the main course which makes up the rest of the album provides plenty of satisfying offerings for the synthpop lover to get their teeth into & at over 70 minutes duration, you certainly won’t be going hungry afterwards!
Reviewed by: Carl Jenkinson