Shiralkar: ‘Descend’ is an album worth listening to

Columnist Parth Shiralkar reviews “Descend,” one his favorite albums from sythwave music producer Emil Rottmayer. Shiralkar describes the songs as having an ’80s feel with superb bass lines.

Parth Shiralkar

It’s Finals and Dead Week season, which means my Bluetooth headphones get used a lot more than usual, and so does my credit card.

Emil Rottmayer is a U.K.-based music producer (not to be confused with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the film “Escape Plan”) who makes synthwave, and it is very good synthwave. I decided to review his most prolific album to date, “Descend.”

But first, let me take a selfish step back to discuss the genre. I was exposed to synthwave a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly when, but I’m grateful for the event.

If you’ve played any video game from the ’90s, or more accurately, the ’80s, you know the deep synths and thick bass lines that go with the era. Synthwave attempts to emulate the ’80s vibe, ranging from wild science fiction to outlandish movies with neon lighting and loose plots.

Synthwave is a younger sister-genre of vaporwave, which is a similar genre of music. This particular slice of the electronic music genre pie-chart seeks to invoke a strange nostalgia for the ’80s era. I love it. I was never part of the ’80s, but sometimes I wish I was, and sometimes I’m glad I have the music to vicariously live in those times.

“Descend” was released in 2018, under Dream Girl Records. It contains eight main tracks and five bonus tracks, which were mixed from a separated EP of his called “Detached.” The title track starts off with a really dense bass line and picks up a set of smooth chords fast.

Rottmayer’s bass lines are his specialty. There is not one single track with a weak bass line. “F.A.D.E.” has a similar start, and it shares two main chords with “Descend,” although it has a lighter vibe to it. “S.O.L.O.” starts off with a nice set of pads and leads into the melody and the drop all the way through the second melody.

Rottmayer works really well with percussion instruments. Again, because the point of the genre is to be a portmanteau for the era that we left behind, but not really, a lot of the instruments have ties to really old vinyl loops and scratching sounds. “Audia” makes beautiful use of a flute-like instrument I am yet to place. “Distraction,” “W.A.V.E.” and “Endura” also float on nice bass lines. “T.I.M.E.” and “Mega” are both tracks that I would play on a dinner date with a beautiful alien I rescued from the clutches of an evil civilization. I cannot stress this enough: the man knows his bass lines.

This brings me to my favorite tracks. The escalation from a simple four-chord melody into the depths of a starry night, “L.I.F.T.” is the most excellent track. “T.I.M.E., Pt. 2” has undeniably the best drop on this album. It creeps up on you like this feeling of missing something you never really had. “Limit” plays on the strings of your heart as you remember that one time in high school you smiled, and it was a real smile.

Finally, my favorite track is “K.E.Y.S.,” which starts off as a wonderfully arranged off-beat melody and leads into a feeling that has no word in English, thus requiring a helping hand from the Welsh. The word “hiraeth” translates loosely to “missing home,” and is a word that accurately captures how I feel after having listened to the track on loop for the umpteenth time.

It’s a great album. You can listen to it on Spotify or on Apple Music.