Admittedly, while I do listen to and play a fair bit of music that heavily features synthesizers, I don’t have a whole lot of experience with synthesizer music in general. Still, there was something compelling about the look of Plight, the sophomore release from Western Massachusetts’s synth wizard Jenn Taiga, so I took a chance on something outside my comfort zone and I’m really happy I did. No matter what the genre, I’m always happy to find artists that push their craft into new places. This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal-adjacent.
Despite her first album being released just last year, Jenn Taiga has done extensive live work all over the East Coast, playing at Northeast Electro-Music Fest, Experimental Electro-Music Fest and Western New England SynthFest. It seems playing live is where she is in her element, so it makes sense that Plight was recorded live, showcasing Taiga’s exceptional skill at improvising and building and weaving interesting textures that flow in and out of each other in ways that alternately compliment and clash in a very satisfying way. Stylistically, Taiga is a purveyor of the Berlin School, which leans heavily on psychedelic instrumentals that exemplify otherworldly, spacey patterns and sounds over repeated arpeggiated backdrops. According to Taiga, on Plight, her intention is to take that framework and to make it even more psychedelic and significantly darker. I think this is where most of the crossover appeal is going to come from, because even if you’re not a fan of synth music, anyone who appreciates dark tones and psychedelic melodies is going to find something to appreciate here. These songs don’t ever become boring or stale. There’s enough going on in each one to keep your attention, especially if it’s your introduction to the style. And if you are a fan of synth music, this is definitely going to be worth your time to dig into.
Taiga utilizes classic sounds from MOOG, Nord and Korg machines, but on Plight they are pushed into new and interesting territories. There are only two tracks on the album, but each is a twenty-plus minute showcase of what Taiga can do with a little bit of inspiration and a whole lot of knobs to twist. “Solivagant” opens with a dark arpeggiated motif that is repeated throughout the piece, with different melodies and sounds layered over it. This track features a lot more of the psychedelic sounds that I was looking for on the album, and it especially exemplifies Taiga’s technical prowess with the instrument. There’s a fair bit of shredding on this one, and it makes for a really compelling listen. Taiga’s leads draw particular influence from Keith Emmerson and Rick Wakeman, with a lot of fleet fingered maneuvers and symphonic tones. The second half, “Proteus,” is much more heavily dependent on tone and texture than “Solivagant.” There’s a very literal spacey feel to the whirs, blips and bleeps that punctuate the track, reminiscent of satellites in outer space or the turning of distant galaxies. It’s a very meditative piece, one that successfully takes you out of yourself and leaves you pondering something much grander that whatever you were before.
Plight has been out digitally for a hot second already, but Tridroid Records released it on tape this week, and man is that translucent seafoam green gorgeous. However you choose to pick it up, if you’re looking to expand your musical or cerebral horizons, do yourself a favor and check this one out. There’s something here for everyone from hardcore synth nuts to the entry level pleb (like me).