Dark clouds gather on the horizon in Dark Future, a gritty and pulsating track that heralds the start of composer Clifford White’s third volume in the SYNERGY series Robot Dawn. Shambling and shuffling like a mechanical automaton, this track aptly sets the vision of the album: as a scientifically themed musical exploration of the emerging robotics and AI technologies that so obsess our culture.
Machine continues this theme, with a driving and insistent beat which is overlaid with powerful soaring strings, arpeggios and robotic voices. Clifford seems to walk the line with his musical concept of technology, somehow acknowledging both the dangers and the optimism simultaneously. With sitars, harps and other exotic instruments, the following track Eastopia has a powerful Asian flavour, conjuring visions of a high-tech future, an optimistic city landscape of futuristic proportions.
Digging a tunnel to the core of the Earth, Subterranean pulses with an unrelenting beat, which is overlaid with atmospheric melodies and the sounds of sub-terrestrial life, to create a darkly mysterious and alluring track. These persistent robotic beats continue on The Third Law, which draws it’s title from science fiction author Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot short story collection in the 1950’s.
Clifford’s robotic beats take on smoother and more psychedelic substance in Oil and Water, a relaxing oceanic excursion, almost as if we were being transported across the ocean by some kind of steam powered schooner. After the rather relaxing vibrations of the preceding track, we switch into high gear with New Horizons, a trance-inspired dance track which rapidly steams along it’s futuristic tramlines at breakneck speed. An inspired synthesizer solo heralds a visionary theme, and layered synth arpeggios lift the track into an optimistic stratosphere.
Investigation is a pleasantly quirky track that suggests some kind of spy or detective story, as we watch our heroes hunt for their suspects in rain swept streets, or explore secret coves to uncover vital clues. We then arrive at the title track Robot Dawn, which could almost be the main theme from The Terminator film, with haunting choirs, cinematic pulses, the cries of tortured souls and the echoes of distant metal pipes and anvils. Perhaps it is finally plainly evident here exactly what Clifford thinks may be the ultimate conclusion to our obsession with robotics and artificial intelligence. It is a dark vision, but also a dramatic and awe inspiring one.
Images of an icy landscape are conjured up in Deep Freeze, a frozen world of cyborgs perhaps, or some kind of post-apocalyptic cryogenic vision. Whatever his intent, Clifford’s ability to conjure powerful aural landscapes is evident here, and whilst the tone is dark and haunting, the addition of pulsing beats and distorted lead guitar transform the track into another intriguing theme for some forgotten sci-fi movie. The funky beat most evident on Clifford’s previous Synergy volume The Speed of Silence returns in Earthrise, which again suggests an enigmatic and mysterious scifi TV theme.
Finally in conclusion comes Singularity, an almost 80’s synthwave inspired quirky tune with singing robot bass and stomping beat, which reaches a powerful and dramatic climax. I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to the Robot Dawn album, the robots are most definitely taking over!
As with the other volumes of the SYNERGY series, on Robot Dawn Clifford has clearly brought together some of his favourite electronic music influences. It’s hard to not to miss his references to Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Landscape and the Berlin School of electronic music. But this time, in addition to musical influences, the album also conjures imagery from classic films such as I, Robot, Forbidden Planet and Bicentennial Man, as well as numerous fragments from cult 60’s TV sci-fi serials such as Star Trek, Lost in Space, U.F.O. and the popular productions of Gerry Anderson.