One of the earliest retro synth acts, Dynatron offers listeners a moving and meditative experience across these five pieces, whether the opening “The Tristar” (at times reminiscent of Wendy Carlos’s most foreboding work), the pulsing, heavier-than-you-might-think “Contact” or the closing “The Unknown”, a piece that transcends genre boundaries and will appeal, as does the whole recording, to a variety of audiences.
Rigel is the brightest star in the Orion constellation and that choice for a title is telling of the music contained here. The moods are never as binary as happy and sad but instead draw from the full palette of emotions and experiences. More than that, the instrumental setting allows listeners to create their own stories for each of the pieces and enjoy a new voyage with each repeated play.
We caught up with the man behind Dynatron, Jeppe Hasseriis, to discuss the EP’s origins, its vast reach and sometimes narrow, sometimes wide gap between synth music and heavy metal.
This record marks another step forward in the evolution of the Dynatron sound. Where did this one begin and what were your thoughts as you went about writing it?
It started out as an idea to explore the four elements where each element would be represented by a respective track. The intention was to deal with something larger than “just” a foreign world or solar system, something that connects every sun, planet, moon, basically all astronomical objects.
After a few tracks I realized that rather than being powered by an element, the tracks felt more like surrounding the element by creating an atmosphere and setting. So I had to rethink the concept. The tracks were written close to Aeternus (2015) and actually felt much like being in the same spirit as the track “Traveling the Wastelands”. It became clear to me that the tracks would work well as a supplement to Aeternus enhancing the part that deals with exploring a foreign solar system.
How do you see this record differing from past Dynatron releases?
First of all, it’s much more ambient and deals more with establishing a mood while still having a theme. Secondly, the tempo throughout the EP is rather slow and I didn’t use any guitars this time. I even added piano which is something new I haven’t done before, but I think it works really well.
“The Tristar” eases the listener into the record; it has the slow build.
It was one of those tracks that come rather easy and it was the first I wrote for this EP. I think I found a good source of inspiration so it was developing quite easy. My girlfriend was pregnant with our first child, and it was a nice comparison to a star system of three stars. Even though the track may sound very melancholic it’s just my way of expressing myself about the world we live in.
“Contact” has some classic space synth sounds while sounding firmly up-to-date.
It must have been the or one of the last tracks I wrote for the EP. A track that binds the EP together actually. I’m always evaluating the sounds I use and I wanted to try out some new drum sounds and the combination of a soft kit and hard kit really enhances the dynamics. It works really well I think.
I don’t want Dynatron to be “locked” to using only sounds from the ‘80s. What I want though is to use sounds that have a vintage character and many of the synthesizers from the late ‘70s, ‘80s and partly ‘90s as well are capable of that, even if it’s only soft synths.
“Stones” is very haunting and has that very heavy undercurrent.
Almost all my tracks are in 4/4-time signature and this is my second attempt at doing something different. It’s always a challenge for me since I find this rhythm very uplifting and I’m trying to work around it. I think I did very well with this and the track provides a good imagery of large structures or worlds of stones.
I also took some inspiration from soundtracks in the middle piece and it has an almost orchestral build-up with the synth strings before the drop and the completion into echoes of a mighty stone hall.
“Storms” comes in and offers this nice counterpoint to what “Stones “did. It’s haunting and heavy with that cinematic touch.
Provided with winds and rain throughout the track, I really think it’s expressing something very cold at times while having a more solid beat and more uplifting theme/chorus. A track that I think really makes you feel “out there” on a quest away from civilization, in a cold and unwelcoming world. More classic sounding drums and slow pads, combined with some arpeggiator, almost a trademark of mine. [Laughs.]
Then there’s “The Unknown.”
This track was originally composed for something else and wasn’t meant for the EP. But it shared much of the same atmosphere and so it felt very natural for me to include it.
I was going for a broader sound and the piano is a very classical approach, like in soundtracks. The piano theme is really the base element in this track, and the hard drums work so well, even at the low tempo. I really wanted to express something ominous and I think with the pulsating effects, in the end, it feels almost like a warning signal. Like you are going towards the doomed inevitable and you are not sure what will happen next.
The record also says what it has to say in a short space of time. There’s aren’t wasted notes, filler, that kind of thing.
You know the term “an image speaks louder than a thousand words”. I’d rather spend 50 hours on great artwork, than 20 hours on just adequate artwork and 30 hours on a story that no one really cares to read. Personally I hardly ever read the lyrics and liner notes on an album, unless it’s production notes about technical stuff, or about Terminator, or Alien, or Aliens. [Laughs]. Keeping it simple is a challenge for me but I believe very much in the idea that a simple layout works better than a bloated layout.
It seems like we’re at an interesting moment in music when synth music is appealing to fans of heavy music as well. I think that’s always been the case though I think that people were sometimes reluctant to admit that they had, say, Tomita and Iron Maiden in the same collection. When do you think it changed?
I think it changed within the last couple of years, but very recently. I have a background in metal music and it’s been like this, “Oh you use keyboards, you [don’t belong]” for many years, and I still see it from time to time. There’s always been that section within metal that very much rely on keyboards, like Stradivarius and Dream Theater and the metal heads either love it or hate it. Some people dared to express their true opinion even though it was against the majority. Then Perturbator, Gost and others that have a very hard sound became popular the last year (or more), and now that so many secretly or openly have embraced retro synth, it has become more OK to like music that uses synthesizers.
What do you see happening next for Dynatron?
Now that the EP is out I will focus on the next album. I have several demos and half tracks that I need to rework or redefine the purpose of. The story and concept are not fully developed but I’m working with a graphical artist this time. Not that I don’t want to do artwork, it’s just very obvious to me that he can do stuff that I would never be able to do!