ALBUM REVIEW: Hunter Complex – Dead Calm and Zero Degrees

7/10

Hunter Complex – Dead Calm and Zero Degrees

Hunter Complex is the Dutch musician and composer, Lars Meijer. He’s well-known in the Netherlands underground electronica scene. He has been composing electronic, synth-based music for other 30 years. In the late 80’s he began experimenting with synthesizer and putting his music out on homemade cassettes. By the mid-90s Meijer’s music had developed into a lo-fi pop sound, releasing a couple of albums as “Larz.” At the turn of the century along with Coen Oscar Polack and Jantijn Prins, Meijer formed “Psychon Troopers.” An electro-acoustic band mixing improvised and composed music, that to date, under the name Psychon and Psychon Troopers have released six albums.

At the same time, originally created to release Psychon’s music, Meijer set up the label “Narrominded.”  The following year along with Coen Oscar Polack, Meijer formed the experimental lo-fi electronica duo Living Ornaments, an outlet for the more abstract side of Meijer and Polack’s musical outputs. In 2008, Meijer started recording his solo output under the moniker of “Hunter Complex.” Meijer’s Narrominded label released the 2010, synth-pop and new wave-influenced, self-titled, debut album and the 2013 follow up album Heat. In 2019 the Death Waltz label released the critically acclaimed Open Sea.

Dead Calm and Zero Degrees is the fourth album by Hunter Complex and the first to be released on, the Kent-based, Burning Witches Records label. The ten tracks on the album are thematically similar to Open Sea, as they were recorded around the same time. Darren Page and Gary Dimes, of Burning Witches Records, explain Dead Calm and Zero Degrees is a refreshing blast of epic open space… Expertly crafted by Hunter Complex into a very fulfilling partner to last years Open Sea.”

Dead Calm and Zero Degrees opens with the toe-tapping “Dead Calm.” Rich, warm and breezy layers of bright synths play around a ridiculously infectious rhythm. The middle eighth introduces a bass hook that morphs and takes the tune into a straight out synth jam. “Bitter Cold” is underpinned by a deceptively simple drum beat and plays around with various, catchy, synth-pop melodies. Contrary to the song’s title the sound and feel is again one of warmth and fluorescent colour.

“Steel Dynamics” has a slightly more metallic finish. Layers of synths wash around a harder, less organic beat until dropping to a windswept void and then straight into the following “Blue Tornado”  which centres around a wonderfully addictive bassline and New Wave influenced drum patterns. On “Hot Streets” the warmer synth sound fully returns, but it’s tinted with a touch of reflective sorrow, a memory of a hot, lazy summer day recalled in the deepest grey cold of the winter. The rhythm fully drops in halfway through and rather than breaking the atmospheric spell it is reinforced by the rising drama of the synth strings.

“We Fly At Dawn” builds around various synthesizer pads and hooks, with an enormous crashing 80’s drumbeat before arriving at the sea and the waves washing the song away. “Fragile Flyers”  is a heavily rhythmic tune. Simple, catchy hooks flit over the insistent beat.  “June Gloom” dances around a delightful bubble gum bass before Hunter Complex cleverly twists the song, into an urgent dark wave two-step. The penultimate song, “Riptide” flows perfectly out of “June Gloom.” Starting with a deep, dark pulse and then gradually the layers drift away and the brighter, airy synth sounds float back. The album closes with “Star Crash,” a gently building, softly brooding synthwave monster that’s epic and cinematic in scale. The song ends with the rain sample and melody from “Night City” which is the opening song on last years Open Sea.

On Dead Calm and Zero Degrees Hunter Complex has constructed ten miniature, musical dreams. They beautifully flow together to form a bright, fresh, sonically rich and warm all-inclusive soundscape. Complex in its layers, yet deceptively simple in its hooks and rhythms. At times, cinematic in its grandeur elsewhere capable of filling the dance floor.

 

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