Equipped with a guitar, a synthesizer, and a wide palette of 80s-derived tones, Zach Robinson crafts cinematic compositions fit for a cruise down neon-streaked city streets, or a journey to the outer ring of a distant galaxy. The Construct, his first full-length album under the D/A/D moniker, follows 2009’s acclaimed Super Motives EP with a cycle of ten new compositions, each loaded with enough anthemic melodies, hi-fi synth passages, and guitar solos to take up indefinite residence in the “Epic” branch of your musical memory. Composed, performed, and recorded by Robinson from 2010 to 2013, The Construct spans as many moods as genres, jetting alternately into Italo-disco stomp, syncopated boogie funk, slow-burning balladry, and cosmic drift. These diverse atmospheres cohere into a consistent whole, united by Robinson’s sense of dramatic pacing: strident drum tracks hammer out foundations; keyboard voices overlap into polyphonic bliss; any number of big payoffs hit in the form of synth motifs or six-stringed leads eager to whisk us off to a new zone.
Robinson channels his education (and current day job) in contemporary composition and film music into his evocative sonic narratives. Lead single “Orion Beach” arrives with handclaps and staccato synth lines before transitioning through a series of detailed melodies and angelic pads. If the percolating sequences in the song’s coda don’t spark the mental image of a heated jet-ski competition streaking past synthetic beaches under a pink and yellow skyline, perhaps nothing will. The robo-funk bassline of “Titan” bursts out of the fog as police sirens echo down the alleyways, while lead runs rise up with the light pollution to stain the night sky. On “Love Will Make You Stay,” guest vocalist Sharaya Mikael leans in close, opens her arms, and steals our hearts as vocal harmonies layer together against bell arpeggios and low-end pulses. Though Robinson only toddled through the 80s for a few short months, the decade left an indelible mark on his musical sensibilities through his continuing immersion in movie scores, video game soundtracks, and internet-accessed ephemera. In this sense, the tropes that animate his music serve as markers of a past-obsessed present, and as updated vestiges of the past itself, glimpsed in perfect hindsight and pieced together into a hybrid of (new) (bygone) (eternal) [aesthetics] [tones] [ideas].