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Clifford White – The SYNERGY Series Reviews

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In January 2019 New Age music legend Clifford White released nothing less than FOUR new albums. “The SYNERGY Series” contains White’s brand of electronic music reflected through a variety of styles, from relaxation/new age/chillout through 60’s lounge/exotica/electronic to 70’s/80’s/90’s funk, disco, and dance and beyond. Enjoy this comprehensive review of each album, including over one hour of exclusive video!

Waterworld

Waterworld
“Waterworld’ is inspired by the early works of Jean-Michel Jarre (especially “Oxygenè” and “Equinoxe”). The album starts with the title track. Both in terms of rhythm, use of textures and analogue sounding synths, fans of Jarre will feel right at home. I think it is rather clever since the theme of White’s album fits this sound nicely. “Waterworld” has a beautiful ambient melody and gives you a feeling of traveling deep into the depths of the ocean. It is a wonderful opening of the series!

Next song is “Kinetic”. It has the atmosphere of “Oxygenè, Pt 4”. Still, it is unmistakably Clifford White in its expression. We are taken on an undersea voyage, moving fast into the black unknown. The song has many interesting twists and turns. Next song, “Tranceport”, is even faster. The flute-like synth is very lovely, reminiscent of another UK music legend; Medwyn Goodall.

Timestream
We are back on the surface with the song “Edentide.” The sax sounds terrific! It is a cool piece, showing just how versatile White is as an artist. “Timestream” has several layers, moving like an undercurrent, preparing the stage for the next song: “Sealebration”. With sounds of water and strong Jarre influences, we are at the very center of this magic, oceanic world. It is such a cool place, filled with vibrant colors and strange creatures. “Sealebration” is a tribute to the ocean and the best song on the album. It even has a strange sounding electric guitar.

The chilled atmosphere continues on “Venus Rising.” The ultra-light arrangement shows White’s impressive synth skills, just like his “Ascension” did back in 1985. The only thing that has changed is the equipment; his musical genius is the same. JM Jarre fans will for sure embrace the next song, “Moonlight Express.” It is impossible not to smile while listening to it. If only Jarre had such equipment on his kitchen table in 1976 while recording “Oxygenè”…

Synergy
Near the end, “Sea of Stars” is another winner. It is an 8-minute long chilled piece, perfect for relaxation and thinking. It is easy to drift away while listening to it, seeing before your inner eye starlight dancing on gentle waves. How wonderful!

The last track is something entirely different. “Synergy” is the series’ signature track, a taste of what White has in store for us on the next three disks. We are now leaving Waterworld behind and will soon enter a futuristic sphere of robots, giant cities and, most importantly, speed. The melody has a cool vibe and an upbeat atmosphere. Discovering the complete series seems like the only rational thing to do at this stage. We will of course return with a full review of each part.

It is said that we know more about outer space than we know about the deepest oceans on planet Earth. Listening to Clifford White’s new album “Waterworld,” we get a glimpse of all the fascinating things that are waiting for us down there. “Waterworld” is perhaps not totally on par with White’s oceanic masterworks of the past (compared to “Equatorial” from “Aqua” for instance), but is at the same time only an introduction – not a stand-alone release. With this in mind, we can conclude that “Waterworld” is a fantastic start on the voyage into the magical Synergy series!

The Speed of Silence

Tidal Forces
The whole “Synergy Series” flows beautifully as one continuous, gigantic, album. “Speed of Silence” starts where “Waterworld” left off; with two water-related songs. As we hit play, waves wash over us as we are breaking the surface. “Tidal Forces” is a tribute to the awesome powers of the sea. The song has a fresh and smart vibe with some subtle 1980s references. “Vitamin Sea” is unmistakably Clifford White, with its gentle synth lead and light rhythm. He is easily on par with Tony O Connor and Medwyn Goodall in these first songs.

Next out is the title track. At this stage in the “Synergy Series,” we are leaving the ocean behind and starting our grand voyage. Clifford has a spaceship ready for us; “The Speed of Silence” takes off like a rocket! It is fast, futuristic, even danceable.

Froesen Dreams
One of Clifford’s inspirations is Edgar Froese, lead member of Tangerine Dream. “Froesen Dreams” has excellent 1980s sounding analogue synths and an arrangement and melody that could have been taken from Froese’s masterpiece “Stuntman” (1979). It is the best song on the album; upbeat, inspired and highly creative.

The futuristic atmosphere continues on “Fertile.” In the beginning, we hear the rain and distant thunder. The pluck-like synth and bell are as gentle as raindrops. The Tangerine Dream influences are, as they say, right under the surface – fertile as ever. I very much enjoyed the trumpet part.

Event Horizon
A new world order rises in the song “Event Horizon.” Vangelis couldn’t have done it any better; It grand, massive and epic. Anything is possible for the supernatural forces at play here. “Submersible” takes it, as the title implies, down a notch. It is a chilled piece. Again we are given a taste of technology and what the future has in store for us. Clifford is a first-rate sci-fi author; his typewriter is his digital audio workstation.

“Love on a Real Train” from “Dream Sequence” (1985) is Tangerine Dreams’ most popular song ever. Clifford’s “Love on the Moon” has much of the same sound. It is a heartwarming melody, taking us on a space trip for a romantic rendezvous. It is space tourism à la Richard Branson, proposing to a girl on the moon! Back on planet Earth, we are enjoying an upscale honeymoon by the sea with “Sea Breeze,” complete with a saxophone and a sassy beat.

Space Invaders
At this stage on the album, we are (hopefully) many years into the future. “Space Invaders” gives us a close encounter with real aliens. They seem friendly enough, in an E.T. or ALF kind of way. It is a refreshing and quite complex piece with nice effects. “Electric Frontier” concludes the album with a soft touch of Jean Michel Jarre, plus Clifford’s usual well-made arrangements.

“The Speed of Silence” by Clifford White is a profoundly positive album, like a musical vitamin injection. It is brimming with optimism for science and future technologies. It represents a shift in the Synergy series too, from the ancient “Waterworld” and into the space age. Even though it is a four-CD series, his attention to detail is nothing short of masterful on every track.

“The Speed of Silence” will leave you feeling happy, relaxed and hopeful. Few things these days have that quality.

Robot Dawn

Dark Future
We have, at this stage in the Synergy series, come a long way. The age of “Waterworld” is long gone, and “The Speed of Silence” took us well beyond the present. Now, as the “Robot Dawn” is upon us, it seems fitting – at least judging from today’s news headlines – that the song “Dark Future” is the album opener. And yes, it is a dark piece. But it is not about doom and destruction. No, I think it is a hopeful song. It has a nice build-up, and from the darkness, a new world order rises.

“Machine” gives us a taste of what this new reality is like. It is sci-fi music, robot voices and analogue sounding synths galore. Still, it has Clifford’s musical fingerprints all over. But it is only a small taste of what’s to come because the next track is something different. “Eastopia” is a smart and stylish futuristic vision, effortlessly combining the sound of East and West, and is one of the most beautiful songs on the Synergy Series. There are so many layers of sound, so many intricate details. If you said that it was composed by Edgar Froese (may he rest in peace) and mastered by Grammy winner Ricky Kej, I would believe it. The cherry on the top is a 1980s sounding sax. In short, a perfect piece. I’m very impressed.

Subterranean
“Robot Dawn” is an album of contrasts. “Subterranean” picks up where “Machine” left off. It is a funny and quirky song. But in Clifford’s music is always a melodic focus, and that is also the case here – which makes it into a quite delightful piece. If I ever pick up robot dancing, this song will be a top 5 in my playlist.

“The Third Law” is a chilled piece with a cool guitar. Again I’m amazed by the fact that Clifford is taking no short-cuts on this mega collection of music. The same can be said about “Oil and Water”; here we are taken on a grand sea voyage with flute and harp, and an angelic choir is singing high above. I very much enjoy the creative rhythm, which seems to follow the logic of the sea; each sound of the drum is like a wave, washing over us. It is all very surprising, in a 100 % delightful way.

New Horizons
First time I was listening to “Robot Dawn” I found myself waiting for some upbeat and quick sci-fi stuff – and lo and behold – here it is! “New Horizons” is a danceable song with a J. M. Jarre quality theme. I love the melody; Clifford is traveling all over the keyboard, making sure the melody fits the rapid rhythm. It is bold and totally without compromises.

“Investigation” is a more thoughtful song. It develops slowly, and there are some nice twists and turns along the way. Then we are rewarded with the title track – and it does not disappoint, although we have to wait 3 minutes before it starts to take shape – and another 3 minutes more for the compelling finale. “Robot Dawn” is a future vision of epic proportions. The robots come in peace, apparently, but they are immensely powerful.

Deep Freeze
I love the three songs that conclude this part of the series; “Deep Freeze” is a real winner. After a long-ish intro, some sweet beats and synths, an icy guitar takes over the stage. It is cool, in every sense of the word. “Earthrise” is another contrast, warm and inviting. This lounge music is refreshing and unmistakably Clifford White at the same time – before “Singularity” sums up “Robot Dawn” beautifully. Hard-hitting, audacious and with a laser-sharp intelligence, this song points towards the metropolis of the future: chapter four, “Cityscape.” There’s no way back, man and robots have together conquered both the Earth and space. To infinity and beyond!

“Robot Dawn” by Clifford White is not an album to be taken too seriously, and that is strangely its strongest point. From its playfulness, or quirkiness if you will, rises a rock-solid sci-fi album with almost endless replay possibilities. When writing this I have been listening to it off and on for almost 8 months, and I’m not putting it away anytime soon. It fits perfectly in the Synergy series, but it is also an incredible stand-alone album.

Cityscape

First Light
In the “Synergy Series”, we are now several hundred years into the future. Part three gave us robots, while this last chapter is all about future ambiance. “First Light” kickstarts the album. It is a fast and chilled piece with White’s signature sound. I love the way he tells a story; Notice how the thunder and rain give atmosphere, and the distant police sirens and radio chatter add life and movement. The city of the future is waking up, and we are in for quite a ride!

White has saved one of Synergy Series’ best songs for this chapter. “Sidewalk” is, pure and simple, a jewel. It is a cool and rhythmic piece. It could have been used in any context, from a mobile ringtone to a Hollywood movie. Both the melody and the arrangement are very well-made. It is apparent that the sidewalks are THE place to be around here.

Skyway
The people of the future are, however, not limited to mere walking. With “Skyway” the listener is airborne in a flash, taken on a wild ride. It is travel, future style. Even Richard Branson and Elon Musk would be impressed. Safely back on earth, we are introduced to the “Easy Street”. It is a chilled piece with a nice rhythm and a sweet electric guitar. The street leads directly to an upscale gathering. “Garden Party” is a highly danceable song, with a taste of 1970s disco and J.M. Jarre.

There’s time for romance too. “Lovers Lane” has a funky Bossanova beat, a sassy sax, and a beautiful flute. There’s even a very analog-sounding synth, connecting the past and the future beautifully.

Forward Motion
At this stage, we leave love and high life behind and skyrocket into the world of technology. “Forward Motion” gives a glimpse into all the exciting breakthroughs the future has in store for us. But it is not without some physical limitations. “Fever Dream” contains some rather confusing samples and light rhythm. Fever seems to be a thing of the future too, sadly. The heat rises even more with the ambient “Hot Pursuit”. It is a song in turbo mode, for sure. Even at this stage, 4.5 hours into the “Synergy Series”, White’s focus on details is incredible. The song has a very nice build-up and a well-made conclusion. White takes no shortcuts. Just like “Skyway”, “Outward Bound“ takes us flying. It is a thrilling ride, positive and upbeat.

“The Darker Path” is something different. Its hard-hitting arpeggiator synth and sharp rhythm take us down a much darker path. Life in the future is not all a dance on roses. “Elsewhere” is a contrast to this, a warm and light piece – taking us far away from the chilling darkness of the previous song. I love the rich textures and many layers. There’s a complexity here that gives us replay value.

“Cityscape” rounds off not only this part but the whole Synergy series. It is a real tour de force ending, a gift from White to the listener who has ventured this far. It was well worth the efforts it took to get here. The 8 minutes long piece has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. White’s metropolis of the future is not a “Bladerunner” kind of place. No, it is bright and dynamic. It is a place you can leave your door unlocked. If it is because technology makes burglaries meaningless remains unsaid, but it is a soundscape in which you can spend your day. How wonderful!

“Cityscape” by Clifford White is a fabulous conclusion to the “Synergy Series“. It plays well as a standalone album too. What I like the best is its message. When looking at today’s headlines, we tend to think that the future holds nothing but chaos and total environmental collapse. White’s vision is different and optimistic. In the future city, technology has solved most of humankind’s problems. It is a refreshing and hopeful message.

For more information and music samples, visit Clifford White’s homepage.