How I came by this artist/album: A number of small labels email me promo material/artist news blurbs, etc., many of which don't even apply to the Chain D.L.K. audience/music genres, and I find myself deleting a good chunk of them. This one email I got from Lars and Death Waltz though was kind of intriguing. "The Long awaited new LP, Open Sea by Dutch artist Hunter Complex will be released on January 23 2019 on Death Waltz Originals, sublabel of Mondo Records and Death Waltz Recording Company. The LP was mastered by James Plotkin; the stunning artwork was created by Eric Adrian Lee." Of course, there was more, talking about "supreme synth goodness" and "a mix of warm analog and bright digital synths at a layer of complexity that most records in this genre can't manage to achieve." Well, that was enough for me. I contacted Lars and asked him to send me a copy. He responded by saying one was already on the way, and lo and behold, it seemed to arrive instantly! I suppose getting the (limited) vinyl edition would have been asking too much, but the CDr sent had all the music of the album I needed for the review, so no complaints.
Prior to this I was unfamiliar with Lars Meijer and his Hunter Complex project, but I understand he's a pretty well-known figure in the Dutch electronica underground, so this comes with a good amount of cred. He's been releasing music since 1991, is a member of Living Ornaments and Psychon, and 'Open Sea' is the third album under his Hunter Complex moniker. He is also the co-owner of the Dutch label, Narrowminded. Sorry to say I haven't heard any of his previous releases, but it's what's spinning now that counts. My first reaction to 'Open Sea' is that it sounds like the kind of stuff my '80s synthpop band Chemistry Set was doing for fun and creativity between rehearsals for live performances. We had a bunch of synthesizers and dammit, we were gonna use 'em to make imaginary instrumental soundtracks to movies that never existed. (Hey, you never know when a real scoring opportunity might arise, although it never did.) Most of those tapes fell by the wayside and were lost to time and tide, but this album brought it all back home.
Being completely instrumental, 'Open Sea' is like a soundtrack to an 1980s B movie. Less like Blade Runner, Miami Vice and Terminator, more like Thief, Escape From New York, The Running Man, American Gigolo, or more obscure ones like Trancers or Xtro. 'Open Sea' is not indicative of any kind of horror score though; more bright and punchy rather than dark and gloomy. The synths employed sound like the lower end Roland, Jupiter and Juno, Oberheim, Yamaha DX7 and Korg Poly 61 rather than the higher end PPG Wave, Synclaviers and Fairlights, which is fine by me. Lots of layering on the pads, generous use of sequencers and arpeggiators, plus those drum machine sounds that so defined 1980s music.
My one misgiving about this is the lack of defined melody. It is possible that was intentional, not attaching a specific melody to these pieces in order to evoke an overall feeling. I think that puts this album dangerously close to Stock Music Library terrain (you know, the generic tunes that are often royalty-free used in low-budget radio commercials and self-produced documentaries) but it is way better done than most of the music I've heard in that category. Still, it seems as though much more could have been done with this without sacrificing its stylized sound, perhaps veering off in more playful directions instead of treading predictable pathways.(Many of the musical tropes employed on 'Open Sea' are those you've heard many times before.) The fact that the album is a limited released on vinyl makes it more appealing for a physical copy than if it were just in CD format. It is already sold out in Europe, and likely the only reason it hasn't sold out in the U.S. is lack of recognition and publicity with American audiences. Get your copy before it disappears.