Attentive listeners shouldn’t struggle much with Smomid’s Cyber Solstice. Nick Demopoulos’s project covers a gamut of musical possibilities ranging from instruments he’s constructed himself, traditional instruments, synths, keyboards, and other pre-programmed additions. One possible way of summing up Smomid’s musical vision is saying his compositional sense superimposes unique colors and borders on traditional forms. You will hear songwriting that you know breaking through the rhythmic and sonic storm. It is a conscious move, not unconscious.
Listen to this nine song effort a couple of times, give it a little thought, and you’ll likely see there’s a clear design. Demopoulos structures Cyber Solstice in much the same way as any rock album you’ve ever heard with an “introductory” song, early numbers with fiery energy, settling things down for the middle, and ending things with a decisive climax and falling action. These are storytelling strengths far beyond writing novels, short stories, or making movies. Demopoulos has them in spades.
There’s a lot sonically going on in these songs. “Rhythms of Lyfe” sort of sneaks up on listeners, its effects can be unexpected, and there isn’t a better track for the opener. Phantasmagorical jazz and tense melodies run through the entirety of the album’s second song “Genophilia” and it’s a particularly outstanding example of how to create a sense of place through Smomid’s approach. He goes dancing near the furthest edges of traditional coherence with the track “Adrenachromantica” without ever plunging over and the sheer amount of invention making this track go will grab your attention. You’ll have to live with this one for a while before arriving at any final judgements.
It’s true of Cyber Solstice as a whole. Old paradigms don’t apply here. His work isn’t remaking the songwriting wheel, per se, but it’s a safe bet that Demopoulos would likely agree that songwriting is capable of far more than many of his peers would ever dare dream of. Smomid also understands when it is a good time to pull back on the reins and the tracks “Inceptionism—” and “Digital Stimulants” are both more muscular and straight to the point techno bruisers than some of their brethren. There’s plenty of artistry here, as well, however, but perhaps less invention.
Not so with the album’s final scene. “Remember to Remember” is a full-on explosion of everything preceding it as Smomid takes listeners on a near-delirious nine-minute and thirteen-second ride. It’s through an ever-changing rhythmic and melodic landscape, sometimes abandoning one or both of the aforementioned attributes, and never lapsing into repetition or predictability. It’s Demopoulos’ crowning achievement with this release.
One gets the feeling, however, that he is far from done. It’s difficult to believe that the album and tracks such as “Remember to Remember” represent the culmination of his efforts. A big reason for this is because he long ago removed any arbitrary stylistic limitations in his way and the decision is reaping those long-promised rewards. Smomid’s Cyber Solstice is a reminder of what one artist’s musical imagination can produce.