An instrumental synth cover of Elliot Smith’s “Angeles”. How does that sound to you? Well if you’re not sure all you need to do is hit play on Correlations’ cover of the classic Smith track to know it sounds pretty amazing. That cover, along with ten other original synth-heavy compositions make up the 2018 album Aftermath. Yes, 2018. I’m a little late to the game with this one but the nice thing is that music will always be there for you, and brand new when you find it.
2020 was the year I discovered UK electronic label Spun Out Of Control, and boy was that a blessing. If ever there was a year I needed to lose myself in music 2020 was it, and Spun Out Of Control provided me with some of the best and richest musical escapes. One of those amazing deep dives was the electro funk of Proto Droids’ Cybernetic World. It was as if Harold Faltermeyer, Kraftwerk, and Prince were all transferred into an automaton and made an album of droid baby making music. It was utterly fantastic and allowed me to fantasize that this white boy could indeed dance, if given the proper amount of pints and privacy.
Proto Droids is the dream child of Neil Hale. Hale has a knack for locking into a mood and building worlds on his albums. As was evident with Proto Droids, I thought I WAS a droid looking to get my robo groove on. Hale also makes music under the name Correlations. Correlations is darker and denser music. It’s night drive tunes; city street sharks and neon-lit sin for those that never sleep or can’t slow their minds down.
The first release from Hale’s Correlations was the 2018 album Aftermath(on Spun Out Of Control.) I recently found myself the owner of a gorgeous blue vinyl copy of this record and I could not be happier. It’s a dark affair. It feels like a soundtrack for an L.A. noir film. If Cliff Martinez hadn’t done such a damn good job scoring Drive, I’d say Neil Hale could’ve been a fine candidate.
Aftermath is steeped in early Michael Mann vibes. The sexiness and menace of films like Manhunter and Heat emanate from this record. How can you not lose yourself in the disco vibes of “Cosmic Club(Starck Reality)” or drop into a meditative bliss with the sublime “Good Grace(Gates of Paradise)”? Hale makes music to get lost in. “Resistance Is Underground” puts me in mind of John Harrison’s work on Day of the Dead, while “Redwood(In The Muir)” resonates like the best Giallo score. It drips of melancholy and dread. And of course there’s the gorgeous closer “An Exercise In Restraint”. It sounds like what I’d imagine a star imploding would sound like. Chaotic, overwhelming, dissonant, and somber. Though if this album does revolve and is influenced by the City Of Angels, then stars implode all the time there.
Of course, there’s that Elliot Smith cover I mentioned at the beginning. When you say “synth cover of Elliot Smith’s ‘Angeles'”, it sounds like that could be a bad idea. The thing is is that Neil Hale pulls it off beautifully. Not only that, but he seems to pull new layers of melody and melancholy from Smith’s classic song. That’s the beauty of synth. It’s synthetic nature somehow deepens those organic and human touches. Correlations builds Smith’s gorgeous and melancholy track into an electronic orchestration, that quite frankly I think Elliot Smith would have loved.
Correlations’ Aftermath is a shadowy album filled with mystery and hidden intentions. Much like its exquisite album cover art(courtesy of Eric Adrian Lee), the album is a canyon view of L.A. at night. Dreams and nightmares, lit in the neon glow of the City of Angels. A synth album colored in desolation and desperation to connect to something where there’s nothing reaching out.