Laura Dre is back with another musical opus that took Patrick Fakeman on a journey through a Neo-Noir cyberpunk universe… but as you’ll discover, this collection of tracks is more than just an album..
Those of you in the synthwave scene will be very aware of the work of Laura Dre. She bounced into the synthwave scene in 2021 with the album Moving Spaces – A collection of dreamy synth tracks, galvanised by her signature vocal. Later that year we were also treated to Kyoto Dreams, the bold and ambitious concept album that dove deeply into Laura’s love for Japan and its culture. As a self-confessed Shinnichi, I found Kyoto Dreams a fabulous example of a personal project. From the wonderful Eki Melo style influences to the ambitious artwork, Kyoto Dreams felt like a labour of love that translated very well on a number of audio and visual levels.
So now we find ourselves in 2023 and Laura is back with PROJECT AD-01. A 10 track story of a very different type of World than what we have seen from Laura so far. At FutureSounds, we’ve been lucky enough to have an advanced listen to PROJECT AD-01 and felt it only right to pull together some thoughts on what was one hell of genre-bending trip through some seriously impressive musicianship that forms part of a much wider art project that is coming our way very soon.
So, before we dive in, lets give you some context to the album. To use the words of the artist herself:
Somewhere far in the future, on a planet named HELLCORE IV, where technology is so advanced that humans can’t distinguish between humans, androids and augmented humans anymore, is Xetashell Corporation who mass manufactures androids. Run by an evil lady named Ms. Dre and her accomplice and engineer freaky-Deek. Both are human with special cybernetic augmentations.The general public dislike the idea of android manufacturing, especially granting eternal youth forever. Pure and beautiful androids are being created by the hands of freaky-Deek, but a few experiments have also failed and they unintentionally created dangerous chimera hybrids of advanced technology, A.I. and human parts.
The album opens with ETERNAL (OPENING THEME). It’s here where it became quite obvious that this album was going to differ from the work Laura has released before. It’s a big and bombastic opening track. Shades of cinematic dark synth are the immediate vibe. For those that can remember, it’s very much in the line of OGREs Calico Brawn and 195. I’ll aim to keep comparisons to a minimum but the track gave me that excitement of discovering such classic examples of synthwave that kickstarted my love for this music.
Next up is HELLCORE IV. Named after the project’s main planet and location, the dark synth tropes continue but this time a little softer, delicately layered in such a way as to make it feel like a musical onion. For me, it’s not a stand out track but it’s clean, professional and sounds lovely on the ear.
CHIMERA comes next and represents a change in gears that lasts for a number of the tracks that follow it. The 2nd half introduces itself with a minor pause before the beastly bass kicks in and pulls us through the rest of the track. Lovely stuff.
AKIRA follows on. Fast paced with some wonderfully Japanese-inspired elements that really work. It almost feels delicate. Intelligent track.
RESISTANCE is up next and is probably my favourite track amongst them all. It’s here where I felt there was certainly a 90s dance influence creeping into Laura work. For the movie-lovers amongst you, it reminded me to Latour’s 1991 classic Blue, that featured in the night club scene in Basic Instinct. RESISTANCE has big drops and a monstrous beat. TURN IT UP LOUD.
SHINJUKU 2.0 keeps the pace of RESISTANCE. Like its exciting and vibrant Tokyo ward namesake, SHINJUKU 2.0 is a trip! It’s pace drags you into what could easily be a chase through the streets of Tokyo as you witness the exhilarating and diverse sounds of the city. Intense. Much like those city streets.
At this point I was quite exhausted from the aural journey of the previous few tracks, but rightfully so. The sequencing of tracks thus far has been extremely good and so by the time HABITAT 5 arrives, we have a slightly softer cushion to land on. Elements of cyberpunk continue but we have a softer edge.
The 8th track of PROJECT AD-01 is LITHIUM and by now we are treated to a track very much in the classic outrun style but with the accompanied warm glow of soft synths. It feels like a reset for the listener that has, so far, been taken on a high-intensity journey.
The penultimate track is DIVISION 3184 and the cinematic sci-fi soundtrack elements are strong in this one. Think Paul Leonard-Morgan’s DREDD OST but very much it’s own animal. The track, like the others, does a wonderful job of painting a picture of the story without us truly knowing the details of that story. And it sounds big and intrepid.
Then we reach the final track – XETASHELL CORPORATION (CLOSING THEME). Our closing track ratchets up the tension with unforgiving baselines and some wonderfully well-timed drops. Someone play this one live – its a beast of a tune.
PROJECT AD-01 is one hell of a trip. The much wider art project that Laura Dre has entered into includes not only the music, but ‘android sculpture’ and illustration that will be incredibly interesting to explore. Fully expect the story of PROJECT AD-01 and its music to intertwine with the artwork in a manner that we have become accustomed to with Laura’s releases.
Naturally there is a significant amount of secrecy surrounding this project which peaked my interest as I explored the Xetashell Corporation website. It is here we are treated to a number of quite mysterious videos introducing new android types that will inevitably be central to the story of the project. Go take a look before you listen to the album – It’s fascinating and truly does elevate the listening experience.
As someone who loves to discover new and exciting takes on electronic music, PROJECT AD-01 represents to me a rousing collection of bold and expressive tracks that span from dark synth to big cinematic OST-style cuts with a little dose of 90s dance thrown in for good measure. The wider project with its immersive website and solid story will bring the tracks to life in a way that you won’t be expecting. We’ve had ‘soundtracks to movies that never existed’ released before, but this one hits different. Laura describes it as an ‘image album’, a Japanese concept of ‘music inspired by a work’. Yes, this is ultimately a soundtrack by definition, but the emphasis is more on imagination. And maybe that is where my overall admiration for this release comes from. This album truly does feel like it’s based in an established World and story. But equally as important, it sounds great.
PROJECT AD-01 is released on Thursday 9th March. You can find out all the information related to the album Kickstarter project HERE. Additionally you can find out more about freaky-Deeks android sculpture Kickstarter HERE. Go take a look, sign up and listen to this album as soon as you possible can. It’s quite special.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.