Protector 101 - Paramnesia
Protector 101 is a powerful creative outlet developed by Jake Freeman to explore his musical capabilities. He has been pushing and bending the genre definitions with a catalogue dating back to 2011 or so. The vast Protector 101 musical library is difficult to categorize as a lump sum. The styles drift around like a Venn Diagram on meth scratching at various exploratory borders only to move again push out and realign in familiar territory. Protector 101 can take us into cinematic and concept realms which we hear in the Paperboy 3, Black Friday 2, Kingdom City Drowning, Killer Campout, To Live And Die In L.S. Vol. 1, Solitary Star, Dream and Collar soundtracks. Each release showcases Jake Freeman's musical prowess. This diverse approach doesn't stop with scoring films; it reaches out into other directions that take a hybrid approach mixing film scores with retro synthetic vibes. Wastelands is nice example of this. It is a concept album where certain tracks highlight a particular post-apocalyptic gang circa 2099. Each cassette revealed which gang the buyer was in. I remember opening the package to discover my new gang affiliation with great excitement. The music and marketing was top notch. I found myself constantly coming back to this release as it became my favorite piece backed by "The Nuclear Brawlers", "The Vipers" and "Back Alleys". Beyond the musical scores there is plenty of hard hitting dark-synth to digest with the Protector 101 EP, LA Cop Duo and The Prime Directives. "Fighting Spirit" is classic tune of the times complete with that unforgettable synth groove that sucked us all in so many years ago.
So why do I bring this up? Why do we need to conjure the past? We are in the present ready for what the future holds. I feel it is important to know where Protector 101 began to better understand the evolution of the sound. For me, Wastelands was game changer because it captured my love of post-apocalyptic and 80's action cinema. In every track I could imagine in my own twisted way what each gang looked like and how they may react to a rival or what they would do to some lost idiot venturing out unprotected. It wasn't overly score driven to the point where it was cool as whole, but separating the tracks would somehow dilute the message. The blend of score and the assault of the dark synths had perfect harmony in the bigger picture. You could easily take certain individual tracks off the release to play in DJ sets or mix tapes and they fit perfectly separated from the rest of the album. This separation showed a true work of art fueled by skill and passion!
October 31st marks the next chapter to the Protector 101 story. This new chapter is called Paramnesia, the inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. The theme of the album centers on Sara. She has lost everything including the ability to separate what is real and what is not. The only thing she knows that is truly real is revenge. We don't know what happened to Sara. Somewhere in the music and words of Paramnesia perhaps we will discover why Sara is consumed by revenge?
Forget any preconceived notions you may have about Protector 101's sound. This is a brand new machine nibbling off the past and reprocessing it with a revamped heavy dose of precision engineering with a singular mission to absolutely destroy you for nearly one hour.
Paramnesia comes alive with the opulent glow of blazing synths bolstered with innovative genre-pushing designs drenched with themes of revenge and vigilante justice from the vantage point of a young girl torn between reality and fantasy. The handpicked artists rise to the occasion to help tell Sara’s story within the lyrics, the music and the artwork. This one hour is Protector 101's finest work to date. From the dynamic vocal collaborations to the A list remixers, the listener is treated well beyond the price of the music.
Sara's story begins with "Angel with a Gun". It acts as a foreboding gateway to Paramnesia's beginning. It is here where we feel the true power of the dark design that sucks the chills to the surface of our skin; this where we start to sense the direction of the album. Then, when all is quiet……BOOOM!!! A menacing shriek rips away the silence and "Catatonia" is unleashed with a furious assault of raging smashing beats backed by layers ambience and distant Gregorian chants.
"Tourist" marks the first vocal collaboration on the album with Jared Nickerson of Dead Astronauts. His deep melodic voice is unmistakable and commanding. The tempo slows down and the focus shifts to the vocals. What part of Sara's story is being told here?
"Peace In Death" continues with an aggressive beat paired some EBM elements smuggled into the mix. The sound is a relentless hammering beat with loads secondary sounds built into the background and foreground.
"Sara (Featuring Le Cassette)" sounds very 80's with Le Cassette's vocal work. Like Jared Nickerson, Adam McNab can command a song purely with his voice. She’s a killer at 17, she’s an angel with a gun, my Sara are some of the lyrics that help paint a picture of what happened to Sara. She is fueled by revenge. Although the lyrics seem to reveal the nature of Sara’s mental state, the music is slower and more deliberate as if it were Sara’s conscious questioning her malevolent intentions. Those intentions heat up with Seeker, an aggressive instrumental swirling with crafty yet intricate programming. The track features some randomly generated sounds that are cut up with delays and reverbs to bring out a sense of what Sara's mental state is. The layering of sounds and how it all fits is flawless not only here but everywhere throughout the album.
Hayley Stewart (formerly?) of Dead Astronauts adds her vocal talent to yet another artists’ album. She’s been featured on tracks with Perturbator, Gost, Betamaxx, Alex & Tokyo Rose, Arcade High and Starcadian to name a few. Earlier this year she released her solo album under the moniker Mecha Maiko on NewRetroWave titled Mad But Soft to very high praise. Stewart’s voice sedates you into a tranquil state complimented by P101’s ability to match her musically.
The Microchip Terror remix of “Catatonia” is a high point in the remix world. If you are not familiar with the insane doctor, then you have some research to do. JY is the man behind the lunacy of the impending robot apocalypse. He takes a strong track and adds his cables, wires, and processors to spike the foundation with synthetic insanity. There is a precise method to his approach that shapes his sound that blends elements of metal and retro-synth. Both JY and Freeman have a knack for adding layers of ancillary sound that jack up the main layers. It’s very interesting how similar they both approach the design. Their sounds are different on the respective releases but they both are able keep things fresh and decisive with this creative instinct that keeps them both pushing their skills to new levels.
The final two tracks are remixes. “Sara” still features Adam McNab of Le Cassette on vocals. This time Collins takes care of the remix. It starts off a little choppy (in a good way), but a few minutes into it we find its identity. The remix differs quite a bit from the album version with echo effects on the vocals and a thumping EBMish beat. The final track finishes strong with the Deadlife remix of “Dead Broke (Featuring Mecha Maiko)”. Deadlife is another top act in the genre whose sound is evolving with each release. Like any remix, you want to hear a difference from the album version with some tweaking and tinkering from the remixer, but too much of that, the track transforms into the remixer’s song. There is a nice bond here between all three artists involved. Oh, and by the way, this is not first time Deadlife and Mecha Maiko have collaborated. On The Order Of Chaos LP Stewart’s voice is featured on the track “Digital Rain”.
The narrative is revealed, the clues are there. What did Sara ultimately do? What exactly happened to Sara? Who are the villians? What will you discover?
These days i'm more selective on what I buy in the retro-wave/dark synth/synth-wave genres. Protector 101 is an artist that helped shaped the dark synth scene and remains relevant with his diversity and professional approach. He simply gets "it". This is why P101 will never be lumped into the cliche and trope filled cesspool of cookie cutter acts that seem to pop up every day. His live shows are quite impressive for a one man show, especially wearing the crazy over-sized laser helmet for the entire set. The crowd gets amped and it's a fun time. Whether it's Chicago or Newark, P101 always delivers with a strong stage presence backed by endless energy!
Ariel ZB brings Sara's image to the front cover. She's the angel holding a gun with an empty gaze. She looks too far gone mentally to make a rational decision regarding her situation. Ariel ZB is same artist that worked with Perturbator, Alex & Tokyo Rose, Raydar and many others. Check out Ariel ZB on Facebook for more information and artwork.
Also, I highly recommend exploring the NewRetroWave Bandcamp site for more music from Dead Astronauts, Mecha Maiko, and Deadlife. Microchip Terror, Collins and Le Cassette can also be found on their own Bandcamp sites. The quality mastering was done by Jeppe Hasseriis of the mighty Dynatron.
Neuropa Records, the same label that released Carpenter Brut, Dance With The Dead and now reissued some classic Ulver material is releasing the vinyl variant of Paramnesia and COG will release the cassette version. You will also find Microchip Terror's vinyl version of Illegal Experiments here as well.
There is another P101 album in the works and the possibility of a tour in 2019 looms. Until then, turn your radio knobs to K.I.L.L. and enjoy the ride!
Oct 30 2018
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I review stuff sometimes. Reviewer since 2012
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