This is a very unusual music review, it is a visual one. I am synaesthetic a neurological trait that means I “see” sound. I have drawn what I see when I listen to the first three singles for Muse’s album Simulation Theory. Dig Down, Thought Contagion and Something Human .
As a Muse fan, there is always that moment before you listen to a new song where you wonder “What’s next, what are they going to do this time?” To be honest techno-gospel was not up there as something very likely, neither was an ’80s synth revival.
Bursting in a shower of colour all three of Muse’s singles released this year have surprised me. They have a magpie-like way of taking inspiration from a variety of sources. Then putting this bewildering array of inspirations through their creative filter, finally funneling it into their own weird sci-fi dystopian world. Synaesthetically and sonically rich.
This is the techno-gospel one, uplifting and focused on the individual but none the less crowd-pleasing. Muse are a band who sing about the end of the world in a variety of colourful ways 78% of the time. I think this is what to do once the world has ended and it’s you and a pointy stick against the forces of evil.
My favourite bit is the stunning grey and black smoky guitar solo in the middle of Dig Down. Look at the “smoke” I have drawn in the centre of the drawing. I have been working on a ring that is entirely devoted to that solo which you can see in the video below. The silver ring is set with a strange and twisted smoky quartz that looks as if it has some smoke from prehistory frozen into its core.
In this picture the guitar is drawn in the centre with the main bass synth rhythm circling the whole image, green voices to the left and the yellow finger clicks across the middle.
The sinuous bassline in this song is so tasty and underpins the whole song as the bass does in so many Muse songs. This full purple bass line contrasts with the falsetto of the vocals. The theme of this song is the spread of misinformation. Using this visceral metaphor of being bitten and poisoned by the proliferation of false ideas is very apt in the current climate.
A song crawling with cartoon creepiness. I’m sure the chord progression contains the cliched “Da…Da…Da….” horror cliff hanger chords… sing it and listen, I’m sure I can hear it! The sniff of the undead here owes much to Michael Jackson’s thriller, as does the video and we are wending our way back to the ’80s again.
It is a song that produced many drawings, not all of which are here. The pink almost wood-like shape to the left of the drawing is the vocals, the rope-like purple the repeating bass line. The second image is what I see at “you’ve been bitten by” in the song.
This song is so 80’s it hurts my teeth, It’s an arcade game synth raid. The video is a session of spot the 80’s film reference bingo. Although I didn’t see any Lost Boys yet. Uplifting and a song that musically mimics the long distance travel referenced in the lyrics, lands at a place of the personal need we all have for well…something human.
Synths are fantastic from a synaesthetic point of view they usually inhabit odd shapes and bright unnatural colours. Athough the synths in Something Human are mostly blue with the robotic sounding verse and song closing synth being a long string of squares.
There is a creamy custard yellow in the curling and dramatic vocals (below). Look for a little purple, arch shaped bass run that frolics in the savanna grasses of vocal and synth. Listen out for it when you hear the song, it’s very subtle. Compare it with the same shape in the drawing above. It’s the same bass run but louder in the mix and therefore bigger.
Read about my synaesthetic experiences with Muse live here.