21 Oct 2020

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PolarisRadio - Album Review: Deadline

03 Jul 2020 // A review by Steve Shyu
Dean Moroney, under his stage name PolarisRadio, is on track to becoming Aotearoa’s finest retro-synth music producer. Over the past six years, from his home-base in the Hawke’s Bay, he has released numerous one-off singles and full-length releases, including Virtual Paradise. His latest work is set to be yet another ground-breaking effort, entitled Deadline. Muzic.net.nz’s Steve S. took a joyride with PolarisRadio through his new 80’s-styled universe and broadcasted this report.

Even just looking at the album cover reminds one of a video game, or an 80's action film. The striking contrast of neon writing, palm tree silhouettes and cartoon-like city skylines all proudly declare that this is a love-letter to the good old days. The tagline of the album title states "Your car is stolen and your girlfriend kidnapped. You have until sunrise to save them both". There may not have necessarily been a storyline planned during this album’s production, but the backbone of a story is still put out there, and one couldn't help but piece together a mental movie, or picture a first-person perspective computer game, with this album serving as soundtrack.

We’ll come back to this "story"; how does the album sound?

Most synthwave music made in the modern day is often created as a homage to music of the 80’s, and this record is no different. Pulsating bass synths evoke a dance-y vibe, while reverberating toms dominate the beats, and larger-than-life keyboard riffs drive from tune to tune.

Against some of the upbeat, colourful tracks, darker numbers like Poison Moon and Labyrinthine (Bzzrkr Remix feature some deep, brooding passages and an almost-industrial quality, and the latter track even boasts some scratchy US-dubstep moments, likely with thanks to fellow music producer Bzzrkr.

There’s even one particularly film-soundtrack piece, titled Rewind. Spanning just over a minute, it goes heavy on the artificial atmosphere like movie scorers Vangelis, a la 1982’s Bladerunner. Fittingly, and adding more to one’s theatre-of-the-mind, leading into the next song, there’s sound effects of a cassette tape being rewound (Yes, I’m old enough to recognise that sound!).

One of the album’s highlights lies in the neon-nightclub song I’m All In. Admittedly, it took me a moment to adjust to the vocals, which sound like a lovechild between David Bowie and The Cure’s Robert Smith. The bittersweet harmonies and the introspective and endearing lyrics won me over after just one round of the chorus. And I swear it’s just me, but the short bursts of “rr-rrrr” at the end of every second bar sounds like a nod to Michael Sembello’s Maniac?

Considering all but two tracks on the album feature vocals, the rest of Deadline serves extremely well as a theatre-of-the-mind soundtrack. The album from start to finish is spectacular in its own right, it evokes a sense of adventure, and punctuates dynamics well. The intelligent use of synths and decades-old drum sounds is fantastically matched with the tones.

Ordinarily, music is composed during or after the filming of a movie or TV serial, but with just a few simple taglines, one can’t help but fill in blanks and imagine the rest of the narrative and saga. I suppose one of the most fun things about music is that everyone’s interpretation of the mood and message will be different. Before you read further, I urge you to take a listen to this album, come up with your own storyline then see how your “story” differs to what I’ve imagined here.

Hit that play that button, give the record a run, then read on.

The tune One Minute to Midnight sets the stage as the opening sequence music, and the title of the tale DEADLINE is splashed across the screen in bold font just as electronic drums enter. The titular track Deadline starts and our protagonist is introduced as the guitar solo begins. He owns a retro-looking but souped-to-the-nines car, and zooms about the metropolitan areas at night with little regard.

The music lulls momentarily to simple synth throbs over bass drum kicks as our protagonist is approached, apprehended and subdued by his long-time foes. His car keys are taken off him and he’s told to find the mob boss and retrieve it before sunrise.

Into the Night begins as our hero hijacks a motorbike and speeds off.

Rewind plays as our main character's girlfriend, Aurora, calls him to inform that she has also been abducted by the mob boss; the ante is increased, and they share a heartfelt moment over the phone. Of course, our protagonist needs firearms to assist him, so he visits an old ally who owns a nightclub, and the DJ is playing I'm All In. The club owner outlines the risks as our protagonist accepts his weapons.

Our central character locates and takes out each of the mob boss's grunts one by one, as Alter-Ego plays, and he finds clues to the whereabouts of his target. The protagonist is then overwhelmed at a fight and is injected with a sedative, to which Poison Moon plays over, he succumbs to the chemical compound and collapses.

Remember starts to play as our hero has hallucinations of Aurora, to which he awakens from his stupor. He overcomes his captors as Beat the Clock plays, and races back on track on motorbike, now bent on finding Aurora, his car and the mob boss.

Labyrinthine (Bzzrkr Remix) plays as he enters the lion's den and forces his way past guards and cronies, and as he comes face to face in the boss fight, the intense part of the music begins. Alas, our protagonist is still no match, and he falls to his knees as the track ends.

As all hope seemed lost, Aurora's Revenge plays and the main character's girlfriend breaks free of her bonds and fights the mob boss, eventually winning over him single-handedly.

The Kiss plays; this bit needs no explanation, especially with the saxophone riffs going. Our main character find his car, gets his girl back; the story concludes. Blue Sunrise plays over the end credits, set on a city skyline as night-time lifts.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About PolarisRadio

PolarisRadio produces a blend of instrumental rock and pounding dance beats, with a healthy dose of soaring synthesisers reminiscent of 1980's era movie soundtracks and synthpop anthems.

PolarisRadio’s live shows are a mix of loud guitar, synths and drum triggers, guided by DJ style dance sequences which allow him to seamlessly transition between instruments and tracks with the intention of delivering a hefty dose of energetic dance-rock.

In addition, aesthetics are a notable part of the retro-infused music he produces. PolarisRadio considers a strong visual presence to be vital to his performances, stemming from his background in graphic design and motion graphics. As such, he compliments his music and performances with bright and eye catching imagery, in addition to creating his own album artwork and other media.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for PolarisRadio


Year: 2020
Type: Album
Virtual Paradise
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Year: 2019
Type: EP
Breakneck City
Year: 2017
Type: Album
4909: Infinity
Year: 2017
Type: Album

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