Power Glove’s debut album Playback stands somewhere between the sounds of Daft Punk’s Discovery and Streets of Rage II – a combination of chunky retro-futurism and big-beat house.
Few synth acts are more beloved than this aussie duo. They won legions of fans with their contributions to the Far Cry series. Their soundtrack to Far Cry: Blood Dragon echoed Brad Fiedel’s Terminator score; the follow up Trials of the Blood Dragon was closer to The Fresh Prince.
They bring all that range with them, turbo-charging their blend of groove indebted synthwave with touches of house & hair metal. Guitar solos mingle with squiggly bass, twinkling melodies, springy synth pad and booming drum machines The results are exhilarating.
The opening ‘Sunset’ paints a picture: a backlit downpour as the sun slips beyond the horizon, before whisking us to the future noir cityscape Playback vividly conjures. The following title track runs like tyres on tarmac: a forward lunge down a freeway beneath a steadily darkening sky. Playful synth bass warps and moulds around a boot-stomp beat.
The album’s crowning moment is ‘Firebird’, a slow-burn epic which rides a raucous bass groove through machine gun percussion and a Van Halen guitar solo. It’s thrilling stuff and sees Power Glove breaking the genre constraints of synthwave to produce something completely unique.
This flows into ‘Clutch’, a bonus track from their Trials soundtrack, re-cut and upgraded. This new version adds flairs of guitar and the audacious intro of a car alarm chiming. As a one-two these tracks are irresistible, and make for the most sublime 8 minutes of their career.
The decision to leave their EPs largely untouched is admirable, allowing Playback to stand largely on its own merits. The swagger of ‘Power Core’ is re-cast in the house stomp of ‘Loaded’. As the album nears its end, we stop for a detour of what passes for the Tech Noir in this universe, with the balmy dancebeats of ‘For Real’.
Ending on the soothing release of ‘Daybreak’, Power Glove cap off their wild ride through night city. As an album set in the witching hours of an imagined futursescape, Playback is pure escapism, full of fist-pumping anthemia and moments of moody calm.
Power Glove have delivered with their long-awaited debut – this is a real blockbuster.