With Cyberpunk Edgerunners infatuating audiences around the globe, there could not have possibly been a better time for the release of ‘Fractals’, the new album by Micheal Donoghue. Its heartfelt, dark synth-punk vibe is perfect for any Cyberpunk to dive into after a hard day of driving fast and living large. It also tells a sadder story, however, one of loss and love that can only be heard when listening to the entirety of the album.
‘Fractals’ is an instrumental album, save for one song ‘Vertigo ft. Kiffie’. This focus on purely melodic and percussive songwriting helps Donoghue to cover larger themes in his music, to me the album reaches the place deep inside all of us that is afraid of the future and its ever-increasing acceleration toward us. ‘Mantis’ (with its slow DJ Shadow sound) and ‘Last Thursdayism’, really embody the feeling that we are running out of time. They both use gritty synths and fast drums that punch through the sound, delivering tense, melody-driven tracks that speak to us as humans, facing an increasingly automated world. Playing with a mixture of beat-heavy sections and spaced-out pad-scape sequences, Donoghue gives us time to think about what is to come; which he takes, elaborates on, and plays with, as the songs evolve into purpose-built sonic stages of robotic song.
My favourite song on the album is ‘Apolemia’. Apolemia is a family in the genus Apolemiidae, a fun fact but also an important play on the themes in the song and wider album. The song starts like the others do, with thought-provoking beats and synth tones that you feel deep in your core, but then ‘Apolemia’ opens up. It gives us sharp drum tones and might I say almost pop-like melodies through high bells. This then layers and layers. Apolemia, on first inspection, are simple single-celled organisms but they are actually a colony of beings that work in harmony to survive. This is exactly what the song presents to us. A sound that is initially singular and then builds into something far more complex, all the while touching on the image of humanity coming together as one final colony in a last stand against the machines. Poetic, scientific and a great tune. This level of detail is not just present in ‘Apolemia’, it features in every song. Each instrument choice and drum pattern, while sounding electronic, feels intensely human.
Even more romantically, Micheal Donoghue and Kiffie present us ‘Vertigo’ the only song on the album with vocals. The song revolves around the feeling of falling, within oneself, which could not fit better on the album. The song is textural and emotional, it becomes more human the more you listen, with encroaching piano and harmonies that really pull us back to the old Earth that the future misses so dearly.
I could go on in detail about the intricacies of every single song on the album: the way ‘Dark Tide’ makes you feel as if you’re watching a passing planet through a space-station view-port; how ‘Inner Space’ contrasts the rest of the album, reflecting on the autonomy of humans within themselves, rather than the world around them; how the title track ‘Fractals’ builds slowly and paints an expansive picture of a lifeless city with such promises, if only humanity could push through the cyber-space. Yes, I could go on. But it would be far better for you to go and experience Micheal Donoghue’s, ‘Fractals’ yourself.
Though I will finish with a final thought.
‘Fractals’ is affectionate and lonely. It warns of a future without us. A future without humanity to think and feel. Emotions, reproduced by robots and drones. Micheal Donoghue pleases our ears and drenches our hearts with fantastic love songs to a past now lost, written by the very ones who will bring forward the synthetic dawn of a terrific and terrifying new age. All in eight songs. I implore you to listen, you will not regret this rare glimpse into a new world.