The Merseyside musician fends off clouds of distortion throughout his Dark Wave epic, ‘Prodrome’.
Back with his first release in a little over a year, the enigmatic songwriter abandons the emo-rap influences which dominated his 2021 EP, ‘Sad Boi Copycat’, trading them in for the deadly combination of compressed bass and distorted synths, both of which conspire to invigorate what is a truly transcendental experience. A refined style which combines his introspective lyrics with an expansive cloud of distortion, the Merseyside musician adopts a ‘minimal-yet-maximal’ approach, through which the densely layered mix extracts every ounce of reverb from the lo-fi instrumentals.
An early signal of disease, the aptly titled ‘Prodrome’ symbolically denotes the overwhelming sense of impending doom which disperses across every track on the album. Personified through the hostile themes of darkness, this vengeance can be found within the haunting atmosphere’s generated by Calma’s methodical arrangements. Present as early as the opening notes of ‘Social Remedy’, the album’s mystical tone is immediately made apparent. Confronting the fuzzy distortion which reverberates around every corner of the track, Calma acknowledges the claustrophobic nature of the mix, delivering the fretful lyric; “Don’t you care that you’re suffocating?”.
Symbolic of the album’s murky undertones, ‘I See Nothing’ is another track consumed by darkness. With the warped synth leads ceaselessly ringing like an ominous siren, the indecipherable vocals enhance the sense of mystique surrounding the track, combining to form the soundtrack to how I’ve always imagined Nyctophobia to feel. A theme which prevails across the album’s duration, the 5-minute epic, ‘Persona’, provides an example of how this darkness is also channelled through alternative means. A mellow sounding track in the grand scheme of the album, on this occasion the sinister atmosphere is attributed to the haunting melodies which prompt each hair on the back of your neck to ascend in harmony.
Abounding in the laboured tempos and melancholic notes which helped give 80’s Dark Wave its sorrow disposition, ‘Curse This Enemy’ sees the rising Merseyside talent delve even deeper into the history books, with its infectious bass groove, accented drumming, and monotone vocals containing all the hallmarks of an epic 70’s post-punk track.
But while these late 70’s/early 80’s influences play a significant role in the album’s gothic tone, its combination with modern sadcore elements is what leaves the tracklist feeling so galvanised. ‘Dancing The Lie’ and ‘Are You There’ are both notable examples of this stylistic composition, with their deceptively upbeat rhythms and glistening arpeggios providing a stark contrast to the overriding darkness which hovers above each track. Trading the sombre imagery for defiant percussion, ‘Virtually Seven’ is one of the rare occasions where Calma demonstrates genuine resilience in the face of despondency, with the assertive lyrics, “I don’t need you, I don’t need to” serving as one of the most memorable choruses on the album.
Concluding with an inconsolable slow-burner, ‘Affected’ ensures the album culminates in the same vein as it started – engulfed in several shades of darkness. While by no means a flaw, the album’s compressed mix and muffled vocals certainly pose an initial challenge for the listener. But when considered its cohesive entirety, ‘Prodrome’ is an extremely focused album, whose prominent themes of gloom and sorrow incite an ethereal experience, extracting the very best out of Calma’s unique and intense songwriting.
Stream the album on BandCamp: