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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

SAYER: A Different Side of Normal (2018)

Updated: Sep 30, 2020

“A Different Side of Normal is a big step in Sayer's career who now can structures his rhythms with the use of many new synths. It turns out to be a strong E-Rock album”

1 New Horizons 6:46

2 Emergence 6:50

3 Progressions 6:16

4 Berliner 8:32

5 Motions 7:37

6 Onward 6:49

7 Open Spaces 6:35

8 On the Road 7:39

9 Intricacies 5:59

10 Enchanted by Thunder 6:28

11 When It Rains 7:22

(CD/DDL 76:57) (V.F.)


A kind of snoring precedes a slight movement of the sequencer which draws the lines of a beautiful ballad, a little like a lullaby, which contort in the dense anesthetic layers in mode charm, with a big C. Bass sequences sculpt a more pulsating movement and the layers unfold their orchestrations which are in mode extreme charm. Always with a big C! Although there are few ballads in this last opus of Sayer, the others being Open Spaces and the superb Intricacies, New Horizons graciously gives the tone to A DIFFERENT SIDE OF NORMAL. Available in DDL and CD and built on 11 tracks with an average duration of 7 minutes, this latest work by the American synthesist offers a series of titles, very disconnected from each other, with rhythms which are constantly in motion. Over the past few years, Sayer Seely has built a good and comfortable home studio and has also stored a plethora of synths that are featured in this album, giving thus a sound texture not only very assorted but also quite different in tones from the cosmic moods of his first albums. New textures that sound astonishingly familiar to my ears. Despite this new depth in his compositions, we are indeed in the universe of Sayer here with an album of electronic rock well coated of some cosmic substances, sometimes even organic, slightly different and whose cinematic vision is better defined here than elsewhere in his other albums. And if I'd like to compare, I would associate A DIFFERENT SIDE OF NORMAL to the electronic rock side of Moonbooter as well as Nattefrost's first albums.

More representative of the next 70 minutes of this album, Emergence offers a lot of movement within its 7 minutes. The sequencer activates nervously behind hoarse breaths which turn into huge synth caresses. These pads weave some very extraterrestrial harmonies with an air of apocalypse in the tones whereas the rhythm, febrile and atypical, mutates constantly in different races without obstacles. Progressions proposes also a cosmic setting but with a melodious approach more in the bucolic baroque kind. If the sequencer is juicy and dark, its rhythm is resonant and slow with good percussive effects, the synth melody salivates perfumes of distress well finalize between brightness and a more diaphanous filter. The introduction of Berliner is striking. The synth lines are like those circular lights of a lighthouse with a strand of fatality in the tone on a furtive movement of the sequencer, amplifying even more this feeling of threat. The movement accelerates the pace, taking the shape of a good electronic rock with sequences which roll in madness. The layers floating with vampiric harmonies and the elusive rhythm which plays constantly on its speed, this Berliner has a little something very attractive and which constantly reminds me of something that I just can't identify. By the way, I had this perception in a few places in this Sayer album. But in the end, Berliner is a title that hooks the senses on its first listen, like some others in this A DIFFERENT SIDE OF NORMAL. I wouldn't say the same thing of Motions which lands with another moving structure where the sequencer uses its tones and colors to confuse our listening. The synths always launch monstrous melodious layers and veils with this zest of intensity and apprehension which marks the distance between this last album of Sayer compared to his others.

Onward offers a stationary rhythm that our fingers struggle to imitate, so much the velocity is fierce. The scenery is still very much like in a disaster movie with battles between humans and Aliens. Always on the move, the rhythm comes off in order to embrace a convulsive phase whose charm and daring don't escape the ear. Open Spaces is a good lunar ballad not too complicated with a very harmonious movement of the sequencer and whose infinite seraphic rise takes place under some good layers of a soft synth nebulous of its texture. In a more ambient rhythm, On the Road comes to us with percussion elements perfumed of Jean-Michel Jarre's Révolutions era. These effects remain vaporous and are pretexts for a seductive line of sequences which unfolds a fascinating spheroidal structure. The structure evolves within its parameters, offering a diversity in the colors of a synth still as creative as the sequencer. These elements flirt with an organic vision that will be more present in the evolution of Intricacies, a little gem which reflects quite well the depth of its meaning. This strange electronic ballad breathes through a pulsating and circular rhythm that is rooted in an organic texture. The sound fauna is seductive and probably would not be so attractive without these tears and lines of synth which inject sound effects (at times I would believe to be in the bottom of an ocean), anesthetic layers and nebulous melodies. We hang on at the first listen of this title, while Enchanted by Thunder will seduce more by the richness of its melodious and apocalyptic synth pads. The sequencer feeds this perception very well with a line of sequences which resonates by its threatening hue, whereas another one traces a zigzagging course that has nothing to do with the ambiances of the title, giving this atypical depth to multiple developments in the rhythms of A DIFFERENT SIDE OF NORMAL. And how to finish an opus of this scale? By a strong title that stands out! When It Rains offers a seductive approach of a military genre with a strange parade unified by synth lines whose seraphic approach infiltrates the harmonies of a victorious Goblin army. At ease in its convoluted structures, the sequencer picks up these percussions that have shaken a little the universe of Enchanted by Thunder in order to create a more compact than complex structure which is at the origin of the many charms of A DIFFERENT SIDE OF NORMAL. Charms with a big C!

Sylvain Lupari (August 29th, 2018) *****

Available on Sayer Bandcamp

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