Another release from Canadian label Cohaagen, R.W. Beall's Simulator has crafted a smooth and intriguing release, Enter the Unknown. As the title suggests, Beall opens a gateway to a digital portal that is, for the most part, harmonious. An opus of electronica that loses its way towards the end, but rebounds satisfyingly by the conclusion. In general, the atmosphere of Enter the Unknown is peaceful and invigorating, kind of like Yanni without the 38 piece orchestra. Predominantly instrumentals with random guest vocals by Frank J. Freda and Rachel Cicci, Enter the Unknown is an agreeable odyssey of digital exploration that fulfills along its path.
Enlighten opens the disc with threatening overtones that quickly lose force, settling into softer, richer choruses and ultimately reaching a satisfying plateau of dance. Revelation is safe electronica that leads into a steady synth groove and features uplifting interchange on the bridges. Divided features sensible vibes amidst the hard driving beats, as well as the vocal work of Brand New Idol's Frank J. Freda. Both Freda's pipes and the music ring reminiscent of The Beloved's Jon Marsh. Also, the positive lyrics have a feel-good luminescence to them. Like Enlighten, the fourth song on the disc, Progression, begins ominously then quickly lightens up, as if to create a recurring message that we are sometimes shackled in life, but have the ability to set ourselves free. The following songs, Regression and Illusion are simple synthpop ditties with minor Goth overtones, which lead into the digressions of the following trio of songs.
Beall pays dear homage to Depeche Mode at this point (in fact, his acknowledgement of Alan Wilder in the liner notes and the disc cover which blatantly hails Music for the Masses drops us clues), as The Ghost of You is a hodgepodge vignette of Depeche Mode's entire career at its various stages neatly bundled into one package. What comes off as noble on The Ghost of You becomes a bit unsettling as the sinister Dark Horizon and Realm skids the tempo of the previous songs into a place it doesn't really need to be. Granted, Dark Horizon does boast proud classical overtones ala Bach that might've worked at the beginning of the disc, but at the end it near topples this project off of its rails, as Realm gratuitously salutes Depeche Mode in a way the listener has already grown tired of, opting to pull out Construction Time Again instead.
Fortunately, Beall rescues us out of the lethargic darkness with Nevermore, a more pleasant dénouement that rings cheerfully like a Japanimation score, leaving us ready for the customary remixes at the disc's end. Overall, Enter the Unknown is a solid effort that breathtakingly takes us on a warm journey that flirts with the dark side by the time our trek has reached its end, but our conductor smartly winks at us, points a sly finger and says "gotcha" before giving us a nice felt dropoff. Interesting to see where Beall will take us next.
Post: Cohaagen Music, PO Box 28293, Oakland, CA, 94604, USA