Listening to Monochrome Echo’s new album Moonkeeper I’m reminded of simpler times. Times when dystopian science fiction films didn’t have to have dread-inducing scores filled with ominous synth and hellscape ambient tones. A time when touches of light and elements of electro pop could cleanse the mental palate after someone is twisted into a pretzel by an alien force or black hole.
Simon Little, aka Monochrome Echo, gives us plenty of hopeful optimism on his new imagined score. Instead of going dark and dreary, Little takes it in more of an anthemic direction. It’s an album filled with heroic themes and uplifting heights. Pop undertones give us a score to the kind of sci fi adventure that usually has a happy ending. Or at the very least, a bittersweet one.
Simon Little’s main gig is bass player in pop stalwarts The Divine Comedy, but with Monochrome Echo Little indulges his electronic tendencies and creates ornate and exquisite electronic albums. He digs into the heady vibes of Froese, Vangelis, and the Master of Horror John Carpenter, but everything he does is touched with pop majesty. Even the darkest tracks on Moonkeeper shine with electro pop finesse. I’m reminded of the majestic work of Le Matos and what they did for Turbo Kid. Nightsatan from Finland also comes to mind.
Here’s what Little said about Moonkeeper:
I love repetitive percussion and bass tracks underpinning sometimes quite heroic sounding themes. Theme-wise, I had the golden age of sci-fi in mind. A lot of these stories revolve around man’s early exploration and expansion into the solar system and first encounters with alien life. I decided to base the story around a network of outposts orbiting the various Jovian moons, one of which comes into contact with a malevolent being calling himself the Moonkeeper. Europa Outpost then loses contact with the other stations, with a rescue mission launched… this album serves as soundtrack to that dramatic series of events.
Album opener “Moonkeeper” gives us early 80s vibes from the get-go. Light and airy synths are accompanied by a solid electro beat. Little brings us into his world with an engaging melody and a melancholy lean. “Europa Outpost” is reminiscent of early 80s Tangerine Dream. Edgar Froese could get as heady as the best of them(he might have even created heady synth, come to think of it), but by the 80s he was indulging his pop tendencies. Monochrome Echo is bringing the best of both worlds together here, heady deep space vibes and electro pop drive. “Into The Darkness” has the weight of a ballad with the cold touch of terror just around the corner.
Elsewhere, “A Race Against Time” locks into some Zombi vibes while “The Stalker” gives us some serious sonic dread. “Escape Velocity” has the tension and momentum a brilliant action sequence as time runs out. “Afterburner” closes out this chapter with the strut of “mission accomplished”, but not without some casualties.
I truly love the world of Moonkeeper. There’s a real flow from beginning to end, and as a record it plays as both an imagined soundtrack and a solid electro pop album. Monochrome Echo has made an album of sonic intellect and visceral beauty.
8.1 out of 10
Monochrome Echo’s Moonkeeper is available now via Spun Out Of Control. Buy it here.