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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Syndromeda Inside the Mental Hospital (2023)

This is a so daring album that it deserves its 5 stars


1 Welcome to the Asylum 6:56

2 A serious nervous Breakdown 9:23

3 A Huge Leap Forward 11:33

4 Pills of Pleasure 9:14

5 Going on the Stream 7:16

6 There's always that kind of Chaos in my Head 11:54

7 There's no Way Out! 14:07


8 A Delicate Equilibrium 5:52

9 Behind the Closed Doors of the

Padded Room 14:57

10 The Room of Lost Dreams 10:08

11 Le Malade Imaginaire 7:21

12 The Clock keeps Ticking 6:40

13 The Reversed Anomaly 7:47

14 Voices in my head 7:50

15 Fear of what's coming 9:37

(DDL/CD-(r) 120:41) (V.F.)

(Dark Ambient Berlin School)

Don't worry, Syndromeda didn't spend time in a psychiatric hospital. And yet, listening to the ambience of INSIDE THE MENTAL HOSPITAL, you'd think he had. But no! Danny Budts is just fine! He has tackled a subject as macabre as it is real, constructing a kind of electronic opera. Replace the vocals with a host of synthesizer effects, such as drones, black winds, cavernous breezes, paranoid howls, layers of voices sometimes chthonian, sometimes seraphic, and the armada of sound effects typical of the Belgian musician-synthesist's psychedelic universe, and we have the ingredients to nail our ears in many places of an institution our feet refuse to enter. Add to this some ambient, circular, heavy and catchy Berlin School rhythms, set to sequencer patterns that make abundant use of the ratchet technique (the dribbling effect of sequences) while playing on good fluctuations and contrasts of its colors, and we have the ideal recipe to attract the electronic music (EM) lover in us. And on top of all that, invite friends of Syndromeda to co-write some of his compositions and we end up with a solid album of progressive EM woven into the haunts of institutions for the mentally deficient.

Welcome to the Asylum begins with a wave of jerky, twisting synthesizer soundscapes. Needless to say, these ambiences depict the track's realism very well. Aside from the rustling of noises and the bellowing between the orchestral strings, the ambience is dominated by layers of vocals. In fact, the music literally plunges us into this colorless, black-and-white vision, with a mental take that crisscrosses dark corridors where strange noises come from behind closed doors. A Serious Nervous Breakdown also offers its share of dark ambiences, composed of wind and hum. The keyboard unleashes glassy arpeggios. Their tinkling stigmatizes a crystal melody whose timbre radiates in symbiosis with the drones. The floating tinkling reminds me of a version of the Halloween theme, in timbre rather than harmonic momentum. They are grafted onto an ambient rhythmic movement driven by bass chords that leap into the void, just like the tinkling, structuring a nervous, quavering structure that accelerates the melody's pace. The hollow hums of the dark winds that swallow up these suspended shimmers in the finale confirm that our ears are indeed wandering into a heavy ambience that is more sleazy than murky in many places throughout the album. An impressive concerto of tick-tocks awaits our ears at the opening of A Huge Leap Forward. The resonant aspect of these tick-tocks gives it a slightly percussive texture, while their speed brings a vision of clocks beating furiously out of time. Pink Floyd-style chimes, think of the track Time, emerge after the 60-second mark, bringing an immense layer of chthonian voices and of dark organ sighs out of the abyss. The orchestrations are dark and invasive. The electronic chirps and sonic confetti unique to Danny Budts' musical aesthetic pigment the moods, here as elsewhere in INSIDE THE MENTAL HOSPITAL. We are in a deep Dark Ambient with layers of monastic, of Luciferian voices, up until a line of sequenced bass is pulsing and resonates for a rhythm that ebbs and flows, eventually taking a zigzagging gait. The sequencer then weaves a melodic rhythm line with limpid arpeggios that gambol and stumble in a delicious ratcheting effect on this hesitant movement that at times sounds very Tangerine Dream. At least for the sequencer play. Pills of Pleasure develops with a delicate rhythm that pulsates and hops under layers of more angelic vocals. The title makes the most of the different textures of these voices, which can be as cavernous and murky as well as seraphic. Angelic is also the ethereal melody thrown by a synth whose delicate meditative flute fragrance contrasts with the drones, various sound effects and psychedelic warbles. The rhythm, segmented in several places by phases of darker ambiences, always remains in ascension mode and exploits lower timbres, giving the effect of passing velocity. Let's just say that the poetic aspect of Micado, both in its sequences and ambiences, and the darker vision of Syndromeda complement each other perfectly in this track, which we discover, and which seduces a little more with each new listen. Another good track is Going on the Stream which follows with a heavy, circular rhythm that's surrounded by good synth solos and adorned with good sound effects that have a more organic texture. There's always that kind of Chaos in my Head has a very cinematic touch, with atmospherics and a pulsating spaced-out Dream-style of rhythm. The flow of the rhythm becomes fluid and spasmodic beneath an environment dominated by winds, synth waves and bizarre hootings. There's a palpable tension in the track's evolution, which approaches the supernatural horror movie genre. A reverberating synth wave and drops of water bouncing around in our heads are making loom a vocoder voice as There's no Way Out! opens. The rhythm that follows is pulsating, whereas the ambiences fill with screeches of fright and that voice diluting into the unknown. The pulses are spaced out and tied together by these long, twisting filaments of synth waves sculpted into a kind of tamed dementia. The electronic rhythm becomes more driving after the 5-minute mark, and Syndromeda shows off his skills with a sequencer that fills our ears with delight, with sequences that perform rhythmic acrobatics to support excellent synth solos and those long twisted strands. The tonality always stays very close to the metallic years of the Dream, slaloming over percussive slamming that are sometimes noisy and sometimes less flashy.

A Delicate Equilibrium is the first track on the second CD. It is in the purest Syndromeda tradition, with its hollow breezes and its pulsating, its groping rhythm. It circles of its sly gait, only to develop further with the appearance of its silvery, its more harmonic rhythmic reflection. These dazzling sequences of new luminosity structure a rhythm that hops along on the resonant vibrations of the devious movement of the bass sequences. The synth multiplies jets of sibylline, yet Middle Eastern-inspired harmonies, while A Delicate Equilibrium becomes a very good electronic rock when percussions get in. Hooting of lost souls and tenebrous winds are the main sources of the highly atmospheric Behind the Closed Doors of the Padded Room. This is pure horror, with a healthy dose of genre-related sound effects, ghostly beats (is it my imagination?) and goosebump-inducing orchestrations. The Room of Lost Dreams is in a similar vein. The track has a more industrial texture, with hissing synth waves and darker ones, as well as intriguing howls. It's a festival of sequences that awaits our ears with Le Malade Imaginaire. There's a profusion of sequenced arpeggios that shimmer in this mirific ballet, grafted with a delicious ratcheting motion from the sequencer. An astral-goddess voice covers this choreography of shimmering sequences which takes a more Luciferian tangent with the arrival of more resonant chords around the 3rd minute, texturing a processional Phantom of the Opera-style melody. Beautiful! The Clock Keeps Ticking is not outdone too. This is a good dark Berlin School that opens with reverberating lines over rhythmic surges that move backwards and forwards with its share of resonant sequences from which the doubles detach themselves to create a shimmering, a melodic rhythmic effect. The Reversed Anomaly features a stationary rhythm with sequences that leap forward one after the other in a minimalist structure that serves as an anchor for numerous ghostly synth solos. These solos feed also the shadowy sky of Voices in my head which, after an opening centered on brain-invading fog, settles down to a solid electronic rock. A very good track that reminds me a little of Jean-Michel Jarre and his Equinoxe Infinity album in terms of arrangements and intensity in the evolution of its musical envelope. It is in an atmosphere of progressive terror that Fear of what's coming begins the finale of this powerful Syndromeda album. These initial waves float and crawl in the void, like a pair of wings of a demonic grip. These waves provide good solos with twisted harmonies, while the rhythm develops with a sustained pulse of sequences that leap briskly into a long linear phase. This rhythm evaporates a little before the 7-minute mark, plunging this final track from INSIDE THE MENTAL HOSPITAL into the heavy and dark ambiences that suit the title as much as the whole of this double-album released on the German SynGate label.

Not everyone falls instantly under Syndromeda's spell! Its universe is dark and often tenebrous and is also conceived in a progressive EM vision where rhythmic structures hum along, waiting for the right opportunity to explode. Except it's different with INSIDE THE MENTAL HOSPITAL. I don't know if Danny Budts' friends had anything to do with it, but there's a unique depth to his double-album. The sensitivity of the subject matter embraces its moods perfectly, while the rhythms are more dominant here than elsewhere on the Belgian synthesist's albums. There are always more complex passages, such as Behind the Closed Doors of the Padded Room and The Room of Lost Dreams. Although these 2 tracks flow with ease where they are situated. The rest is pure magic! Given the subject matter and the very realistic atmospheres that surround it, there's no doubt in my mind that this is the best opus Syndromeda has brought to my ears since I became a fan nearly 25 years ago. Bold, like the 5 stars I give it!

Sylvain Lupari (July 28th, 2023) *****

Available at SynGate Bandcamp

(NB: Texts in blue are links you can click on)

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Jul 29, 2023

What a great and positive review . I, MICADO , am very happy with the participation in this album . The concept and variation of this album is just sublime . Its a great honor for all people that worked on this album .

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