Plays Well with Others
While independent spirit flows through heavy music as much as cooler, more collected rock and folk genres, the skill level leaves something to be desired. Homegrown industrial, gothic, and aggro-electro acts seem the worst offenders, rarely matching even Ministry’s Psalm 69 template. It’s that vacuum in which The Synthetic Dream Foundation operates, so their third album Tendrils of Pretty occupies a glaring spotlight.A one-man band from Tampa, the SDF specializes in electro-industrial and other moody music championed by too many better-known labels and acts to count. However, there’s something definitely more important in play here. Maybe it’s the lilting vocals that take any edge of self-importance off the crashing rhythm samples in songs like “Auf Dem See.” Maybe it’s “Trapeze,” a piano-based interlude produced so its divas avoid the histrionics of Tori Amos or old Kate Bush. Maybe it’s the itty-bitty Mythical Records distribution deal.
It’s little touches like these alongside the mystic synthesized stomp dominating the rest of the album (with “Puzzlebox” it sneaks up on you, with “Assiki: Divine Messenger” it’s there from beat one) that make Tendrils of Pretty so impressive. The SDF matches the beeps, thumps, and atmospheres of great names ranging from Enigma to Front Line Assembly — seemingly without pretense.
The Synthetic Dream Foundation’s music isn’t unique, but the energy they could waste on darker-than-thou pomposity instead goes into songs alternately sweet and sinister. Tendrils of Pretty stands toe to toe with established boutique labels like Metropolis — no small feat — and offers compelling evidence that garage or bedroom rockers have every right to wear black on the outside if they feel that way on the inside.