Model Electronic Records (label)

24 March 2017 (released)

23 min

Epic is a word that gets thrown around far too casually in the realm of music critics. An indie band strumming their hearts out on two chords while cooing “Oooohh ooohh ooohh” gets labeled epic. The bass dropping on an MC right as he delivers his generic punch line: epic. The psych rock guitarist leaving his Space Echo on infinite repeat till it self-oscillates into oblivion: epic. Any of these may hit a person in the right way and send them on a trip to musical nirvana but to most, the E word is just a hyperbolic statement from those at a loss for words. For Dark Model, however, their brand of symphonically infused, monstrous techno can almost exclusively be described by that oft-used four letter word.

Dark Model is the latest project by highly acclaimed producer Tatsuya Oe, previously best known under the moniker Captain Funk. The Hiroshima-born composer, now living in New York takes emotionally charged orchestral tapestries and lights a fire under their asses with bombastic techno beats. The result is an album that comes off like the soundtrack to a mile-a-minute thriller with sci-fi underpinnings that plays out within a dramatic love story for the ages. Much like artistic contemporaries Juno reactor, Dark Model’s sound has been appropriated for numerous high energy movie trailers, car commercials and the like. However, taking on the album as a whole reveals a deeply rich story beyond the 30-second promo realm. Oe’s themes each personify a character in the story he’s telling. Oe likens his writing process to that of an anime director creating a specific visual scheme for each character.

Saga is introduced by a high flying ‘Prelude’ that seems to lead you to uncover a magic kingdom in ‘Avalon’. Broad brass fanfares roar over halftime dubstep style beats. Glory and grandeur are on full display. One imagines shimmering waterfalls from lush green cliffs. Rivers create a moat around a towering castle. The stuff of fairytales.

Danger and adventure are introduced with ‘Rage and Redemption’, ‘Survivors’ and ‘Inferno Suite’. Our protagonists have set off from their home to fight evil, rescue the captives and return victorious. The heavy choir ramps up in intensity to highlight the dire nature of their quest. ‘Labyrinth’ backs off on the imminent peril and finds our protagonists once again reinvigorated in their travels. The orchestration finds itself somewhere between Howard Shore’s adventurous Lord of the Rings score and Danny Elfman’s quirky fantastical scores.

‘Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) is a standout track with its exotic middle eastern melodies and chirping synth line. This song sounds like the soundtrack to what would be one sweet ass video game. ‘Elegy 1’ reunites the hero with the captured princess while ‘Dawn of Resurrection’ ties the whole story up with a rousing finale.

Saga is a brilliant, visual-inspiring composition by an electronic master. It takes you on a thrilling adventure with danger, mystery, and majesty all while using modern techno to amp up the adrenaline. If you’re looking for more out of electronic music than five-second loops and bass drops, dig into Dark Model. There’s a whole other universe to explore.