The four-track SteviaDX EP is the quasi-debut of Lund, Sweden-based producer SteviaDX, shuttling between the equally colorful and nihilistic purgatory of Vaporwave, New Age, Ambient and other synth-based genres or styles. Originally scheduled to be released on Bedlam Digital but now self-released early due to the digital label’s hopefully brief hiatus, the self-titled EP incisively inculcates the saccharified synth stabs and hits home through a molybdenized coating of wireframed low poly aesthetics. The artist formerly known for his Elevator Relaxation tapes as Stevia Sphere and still known for his Metrosong-focused outing as Pine Voc has added the moniker of SteviaDX in order to enshrine the darker times when that certain nothingness in-between two synth pads doesn't inherit lightness but a stark gravitas that lets the listening subject ponder. According to the liner notes, one is entrapped in a simulation (aren't we all?), and it's completely sample-free. Here's a holistic review of all four tracks.
Genom natten i en dators sken
You wouldn't expect it by the look of the emerald-green road to nowhere and the polygonal head that graces the artwork, but the opener does not the Outron or Glow-Fi epithelium one might expect. Instead, SteviaDX ventures into midtempo Coldwave territory complete with lyrics and ultramafic afterglows of the endemic synths. The track title encapsulates the monochrome emanation of a computer screen, while the ubiquitous recondite darkness in hatched colors fittingly highlights the night. Whether it's the arpeggiated benthic harp, the stylophonic brass placenta in tandem with the crystalline glissando or the Depeche Mode-oid remoteness, SteviaDX comes up with one contemplative tunnel vision in slow motion.
Diskette 1: Virtual Rooftop
From the solanum to the uppermost floor; the premise of Diskette 1: Virtual Rooftop is that of a more glistening, orthochromatic architecture that is not only reflected in the textures and surfaces, but the timbrical quality as well. The mellotronic lead melody's incandescence emits salubrious sinews in this sanctuary, all the while the faux-classic drum kit accentuates the slowly rising buzzsaw bass melody that eventually culminates into a cautiously toned-down state of euphoria. Each synth pad echoes out into the void, adding plasticity and wideness to the matutinal mix. The birds and plants are amiss, but you can almost sense the dawn in this locale. Oscillating between New Age and the V-genre, the second track is a strong corker as well.
Even though Betonghus sports a certain darker atmosphere as well, what with its reverberated tone sequences, it feels a bit more dry and immediate at the same time, and that's no bad thing at all: the faster tempo, the apocryphal handclaps and bass guitar attenuation make for a feisty bokeh, thus allowing the half-sentimental, half-uplifting Rhodes helictites to simmer. Three highlights comprise of the helicoidal corkscrew aorta whose pulsatile 8-bit physiognomy on the one hand, the deeply entwined lyrical portions in the latter half on the other hand, and the intriguingly cannelure of the legatofied-lactic synth washes on the, er, third hand, I guess. You can almost sense the polygonal reduction despite the stacked multiplex of susurrant chromophores.
They're Out There
Venturing into rhododendron-flavored elasticized Hip Hop and decelerated sermon-fueled Synth Pop lores, They're Out There sees SteviaDX's down-pitched vocals embedded within the most private, intimate trinity: sound, sustain and silence form a bond, held together by the vocals about flickering screens and cold lights. Even the rooftop of track 2 is mentioned again. What the lyrics willfully fail to transport is the positivism of this finale. This is neither a cryogenic endpoint nor a senescent swan song. In lieu of the increasingly melancholic lyrics taking over in order to correlate a petrifying standstill with the omnipresent sadness, the galactosamines in-between the translucent chimes and sizzling hi-hats start to prosper and grow, with their increasing Candela acting as the — admittedly lacunar — hydrazine that brings the apotheosis to an end.
The Aftermath (aka 0011110101000)
With a name such a SteviaDX, you cannot help yourself but imagine a soda pop(sicle) adventure, sugar-coated and cotton candy-wadded excursions through sweet lands. That the result, at least on the SteviaDX EP, is much darker and as reliant on shadiness as on high-chroma synths. While there is a certain glow in the center of each track, one feels like a moth that mistakes a lantern or even the white shirt of a latenight jogger with the moon, absorbing the faraway ray of light in the distance instead of the surrounding entities that are equally blooming. This strange — but ultimately cohesive — structure is maintained, nurtured and fuelled by the constantly melancholic atmosphere in the here and now within the EP's sound-based boundaries. Indeed, both the lyrics and the melodies suggest an intrinsic world that seems to cross the threshold to sorrow and despair more often than not. But then the good things prevent SteviaDX's faux-debut from being perceived as a dystopia: dot matrix screens. Xenon lights. Hectagonal synths. Wireframe visions. It's the aesthetics that unite Vaporwave with the synth movement of the 80's. You will do fine in Stevia DX's microcosm after all!
Further listening and reading:
- The EP can be obtained at SteviaDX’s Bandcamp page.
- SteviaDX on Twitter: steviadx
- All things Stevia on AmbientExotica: this way.
Vaporwave Review 161: SteviaDX – SteviaDX EP (2016). Originally published on Jun. 14, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.