Project Skyward: Strange Synchronicities (Nebula Records, 2004)
Project Skyward is the brainchild of Ryan Skyward (Vocals/FXGuitars/Synths/Bass/Programming) and Lana Fia (Vocals/Analog Synth). Skyward create a sound that has the mix of space rock, ambient synth, and 80’s synth bands. They have an Ulrich Schnauss meets M83 feel that is blended with the Pet Shop Boys. Skyward’s voice reminds me a lot Neil Tennant. Strange Synchronicities is Project Skyward’s first full length disc and it is a fantastic debut LP.
“Into the Orion Nebula” is spacey and ethereal from the very beginning. It has blips with spacey, floating synths. This is a 5-minute entry into the world of Project Skyward and it really sets up the listener for this coherent LP. Eventually a back-beat comes into the picture and adds depth to the vastness of their spacey canvass. The beats change and become muffled as the song works its way toward then end. Voices come into the mix and really give it a ecclesiastical feel. I find this song to be breathtaking and beautiful with broad soundscapes that cause the listener to float along. “A Flash of Light” blends seamlessly with “Orion,” but this song is very different since it has more structure and it includes Skyward’s fantastic vox. Fia’s ghostly and angelic vocals float in the background of the pulsating beats and layers of keys. This song reminds me of those moments in a club when all the lights are perfect, the smells in the air are intoxicating and you have no choice but to dance and have a great time. “Distant Blue” is quieter and has a more trip-hop feel to it. The electronic elements are still heavy in the song, but “Blue” is more ballad-like with Fia’s and Skyward’s vocals working together perfectly as they creating a floating feel to the tune.
“Blind” changes the mood a bit with a danceable beat starting off the song. The track is softened by a low hum, bass, and some floating clicks and blips. Fia takes front vocalist on this track and she shows that she is perfect for that position. This song is a bit pessimistic as she sings angelically, “The blind leading the blind/Into the end of time…/Can our future survive/Can we open up our eyes?” It seems here to be a political statement, but, of course, it is difficult to say and open to a number of interpretations. “Between Two World” has listless keys and Skyward’s vocals are very much at the forefront of this mix. The mood is one of ease and then the beat picks up in a very nice change. The keys stay floating and listless, but the beats become more complex and intricate as they are layered. This does not take away from the mood at all. In fact, this complexity amazingly enhances the ease that is communicated at the beginning of the track.
“Shine” begins with a club like bass thumping and whirling, silvery sounds. Tatyana Koziupa makes a guest appearance on this track as vocalist. Her cadence on this song feels a bit like Bjork, but without the accent. The mood on this song seems more uplifting and less pessimistic than “Blind.” A ray of incredible hope shines through this track and brings a different side to the album, filling the void of space with happier sentiments. “An Afternoon In Sedona” is another instrumental track that has lush soundscapes mixed with Project Skyward’s techno expertise. The voices mixed in with the synths and beats are gorgeous and have a chanting feel to them. “The Alien” is the most ambient track on the disc, and, I think my favorite. It is soothing and floating as Skyward takes the listener into vast, ambient soundscapes.
Moving from techno beats and listless ambience to 80’s synths and angelic vocals, Project Skyward has constructed a coherent and captivating first full-length. There were more tracks on the disc that I did not mention, but I felt that I had given my reader more than a feel for the disc already. That said, I did not leave them out because they were low points on the disc, just that they are a seamless part of this coherent album and I may have been a bit redundant in my writing. If you dig Ulrich Schnauss or M83, you should probably go pick this disc up. You won’t regret it.