Karl has been working as a freelance writer for more than ten years. He’s a music, art, and writing aficionado!
The deep sense of loneliness is occasionally pierced by light and more uplifting moments. WAVES is an album by Daniel Quasar that explores issues of being and becoming, as well as loss and pain. With sensations of emptiness, desolation, and drift emanating from the synths they use, their emotional exploration includes a sonic palette that further emphasizes the themes that appear in the song lyrics.
They have the ability to use words to express emotion and humanity in a clear and concise manner. I also admire how they use words to create powerful images. Their understanding of thought and emotion allows the songs to pierce the listener’s mind and plant ideas there. The quality of Daniel Quasar’s songwriting is the first thing that drew me to WAVES.
There are cold, starry twinkling sounds, glitches, and static, as well as deep bass and sounds, all set against a backdrop of wide open sonic space. The album’s use of synths to evoke feelings of emptiness, vast cosmic voids, and great distance is another strong feature. I’m transported to another world by the music’s overall sonic palette and taken on a journey through space. Those feelings of separation and division are a good match for the lyrical content.
They sing with a natural ache in their voice that emphasizes the emotional content of the song even more, but they’ve also used a vocal filter to create a robotic tone. I’m also drawn in by the way Daniel Quasar manipulates their voice. Isolation, cold, and distance are all powerfully present, adding to the lyrical content’s power.
A new generation
Along with their distorted vocals, echoeing, bouncing, and metallic sounds continue to flow out into the cosmic void. “UPGRADE” begins with a vast sonic void surrounding Daniel Quasar’s robotically distorted voice and a hollow, metallic sound that expands into that vast sonic space.
As the song progresses, their voice loses its quality. The beat now breaks apart as we fade into those broken, brief sounds and clouds of sharp edged synth underneath. Waves of sharp-edged, medium-low synth sounds drift in waves, joined by the beat’s throbbing pulse. As the hard-edged synths growl into cavernous space, their vocals drift through space and the beat feels relentless.
They are unsure whether they will make it to the other side if they take everything when it comes. “What was I thinking?” they inquire. “Leave everything behind.” The lyrics of this song are filled with dislocation, loss, and a sense of perplexity. The narrator describes a feeling of something coming from all directions.
Our narrator appears to be perplexed, and we don’t know what’s going on. They do realize, however, that it “won’t be long before I find myself in another place,” where they’ll be “left to their own devices” and can’t go wrong.
Intense feelings build up like “a storm brewing in my mind,” and when they reach a peak, “it feels like desire.” Will they find themselves “planed even higher” if they survive it?
Find some deep-seated meaning.” Uncertainty grows as they become “stuck in this from within” on a path that was chosen, but the narrator wonders if it was their choice at all. Even so, they inquire, “Could I change the pace?”
The synths that move in have a brightness to them, but it’s the cold, empty light of distant stars. Deep tubular bells move beneath Daniel Quasar’s expressive vocals as shadowy waves of computerized synth sound rise in dark, full chords to open “Lonely Soldier (feat. Vice).” The lost, almost spectral vocals are surrounded by dense clouds of trembling synth.
Daniel Quasar’s voice is a good match for the emotional tenor of this music. To end the track, a high, whistling, ethereal synth moves in shifting lines, while deep tubular bells swell and fade out. Vice begins to rhyme over the stuttering beat and floating synths that ripple out behind the music as the vocals interlock with the tubular bells’ deep resonance.
It’s taking over, and the soldier’s only option when he doesn’t know where to go is to “break through.” The story’s protagonist is “frozen in a lake of every kind of danger” and surrounded by it. The lyrics tell the story of a robotic or cybernetic soldier.
The protagonist is just a “lone soldier, mechanical wonder” who has “come out on the other side of the fire.” Even after taking the time to “realign” their surroundings, the protagonist notices something is off.
“I don’t know what it takes, but I don’t fit in this place,” the song says, implying loss and emptiness. There isn’t anyone else around.” “It’ll fall apart if I mine this iron heart,” the soldier eventually realizes.
“How will you know when you crossed that line?” our narrator asks, pointing out that we take our time to survive.
It’s time to let go and break free of the old patterns that have been expressed here. Vice’s rhymes are enjoyable for their complexity and nuance. This has been a long and arduous journey into a slowly dawning understanding. It is told from the viewpoint of the main character and contains some powerful images.
Out of the rhymes that were created, I have a few favorites. I like how the line “crave the morning light which I refuse to harness” evokes conflicting emotions. I like how the words “a lonely soldier or a broken man or a chrysalis bursting in my squeezing hand” show a tripartite personality.
The line “there isn’t a science to the art of being” and the neat phrasing “ever searching for an ember to kindle a flame” I like how the words “I keep an eye on my mind and my latent desires” describe vigilance and seeking.
“Of course that ember’s hidden deep inside, only recognized by the eternal eye,” the realization that inner knowledge is the most important form of knowing is expressed in the words.
“Its armor slow sundering, the siren call of these luxuries, that constant psychic hungering,” I enjoy the interwoven rhyme within the lines. The sophistication of the lyrics that say, “against the grain of generations of pain, epigenetically embedded in our bones and veins,” has me enamored.
As a rush of tight synth sound moves into the track’s wide open sonic spaces, “LAST/STEP” comes to life. Over deep wells of bass and a throbbing drumbeat that becomes more active as it moves, a medium-high synth moves in rising lines, lightly brushing the surface of the track.
As all of the sounds rush on in shadowy space, sharp synth rises in minor key lines and the drums gain some power. The beat returns, accompanied by some astral, breathy, open sounds that flow out into the track. I also like how the melodic segment is slowed down so that the melody develops more slowly. Those lambent notes have a nice mix of glow and ache to them.
As the synths swirl together and a high melody calls out in a wandering line, the beat rises and falls. As “Celestial Beings” begins, bursts of glimmering synth are joined by high, slicing sounds that move over the throbbing beat. For a brief moment, the beat fades as shimmering, airy synths enter the track and weave a colorful tapestry.
The flickering synths dance above all of the other sonic elements of the track. I’m drawn to the track’s flash and glitz, which are offset by elements that feel tense and nervous. The beat drops out once more, and a sawtoothed synth enters and fades out before the beat returns. As the track comes to a close, a quick line of glowing, cascading synth moves and wiggles above it.
The beat has a smooth, full feel to it, with a synth with a ragged edge and a hard glitter flashing into the track. I like how the robotic vocals add to the sense of desolation that pervades this record. “Wild Abandon” has oscillating synth waves floating out over the gently throbbing drums, and Daniel Quasar has distorted their voice with a robotic distortion, giving it an alien feel.
A high, howling synth is joined by an echoing, metallic circular sound. The synth drifts into medium-high, guitar-like waves over the beat. It has an open and spaced out feel, similar to many of the tracks on the album, which adds to the overall impressions of alienation and struggle with inner complexity.
The lyrics of this song are filled with a sense of inquisitiveness and searching. They keep asking themselves if it’s something they could change, and if so, “could I hold it down?” “Can’t seem to understand, there are mysteries all around,” our narrator begins.
Even though their mind is racing with “wildly abandoned thoughts,” they must wonder, “Why is this silence so loud when I can’t seem to make a sound?” The narrator is experiencing an internal conflict as tears stream down their face, but they wonder, “What is this I am trying to feel?”
They express their incomprehension by saying they don’t understand and then adding, “If it’s something I can, could I hold it down?” “Mysteries escape, and couldn’t I just speak aloud?” they exclaim now.
Glistening notes from a raised synth burst over top, carrying a minor key pattern. As “Proto” begins, ghostly, elevated synths drift out into space, joined by brittle metallic xylophone notes and a harsh, clashing beat. With the sound of tubular bells, a warmer, richer flow of synth enters, and the lead synth has a triumphant quality to it.
Before the raised, round-sounding synths climb up over the depth and weight beneath them, another moment of metallic tinkling enters. I’m drawn to the way all of the synth elements in this track intertwine. We fade out on shimmering notes and ghostly chimes as the rising waves of notes are underpinned by more shadowed swirls of sound and the bursting beat that hits beneath it.
Daniel Quasar’s vocal distortion adds to the sense of dislocation once more. We fade into silence as a pipe organ-like synth twines out a series of melodic, caressing notes. The beat subdivides, and gliding, airy sounds shift and coalesce in the background. As a steady drum heartbeat pulses and accelerates, Daniel Quasar’s voice drifts into the openness. “BLUE” begins with elevated, bright, glitchy synth sounds that sound like they’re being rewound on a cassette tape over a smooth, flowing background. The high, twisting synth moves slowly in the background, and the half-time beat returns.
This is one of the album’s more upbeat songs, as it speaks of progress and positive change. They have changed, according to the narrator, and they “realize things are different, I know I did you wrong,” but now that they have been set free, they want to make amends.
They inquire as to what the person they’re speaking to sees in their eyes, and if they’d see “the same life as I do?” “I’ve grown to such great heights,” our narrator says, referring to a spiritual change in them. For what it’s worth, I’ve seen the world, the universe.”
“I’ve seen the end, and I’ll do so much more,” the narrator concludes.
The opening of “COLORS” is filled with hollow synth sounds before being joined by a string-like sound that cascades through the song behind Daniel Qasar’s distinctive voice as they sing in Japanese. As the synths glide and swirl around, slow arpeggios revolve and the beat pulses.
The shining guitar melody that moves through the song has an angular quality to it that I like. Tense, tight pulses of gleaming, metallic synth weave their way through the track, moving beneath the expressive vocals.
As the song progresses, the angular guitar melody fades to flashing string-like sounds and open space, giving the song a more forward motion. Before the dynamic, rising guitar melody cries out and the beat pulses onward, the slow arpeggios gently turn. The guitar sings out in long lines of shimmering notes, and the vocal melody doubles the guitar.
COLORS is a song by Japanese artist Hikaru Utada that explores themes of connection, dissolution, and identity, in keeping with the ideas and themes explored on this album. When they picked it, Daniel Quasar made a wise decision.
Rich synths with a slight edge rise up in full waves to support the music. Static glitch and twist flow out into space as “Ambivalent” comes to life, like a signal cut loose from its source. Through the open space all around them, elevated piano notes drift into the music. As a deeper flow of bass and a slow, full drumbeat gives the track form and shape, note patterns rise and fall into the emptiness around them, echoing out in repeating lines.
As an elevated, lost-feeling piano drifts over the growing sonic strength beneath it, the synths shift in medium low waves. The hypnotic quality of the repeating piano line is addictive to me. Slow, gentle notes float out into an echoing void that seems to go on forever. The lower synths’ slight buzz swells up once more, and the whorls of sound intertwine with the deep bass.
There’s a whorled synth pattern with an elevated synth pattern. As “Drift(Fate)” begins, a quick rush of sound rises and floats out into space, accompanied by a keyboard-like swirl of sound. As flowing synth notes move through the grand aural void of the track, some unique percussion adds an ethnic flavor to the track.
I enjoy the track’s complexity, which includes glitchy synth twists and piano notes that cluster and wriggle through as the beat progresses. A lone twisting and distorted synth flows out into vast space as the track ends. A wandering line is carried over the beat by a round, glitching, twisting synth, and lighter sounds gleam in the distance.
WAVES is a rich, nuanced listen that takes you on a journey through deep emotional territory, creating a wide open, cold soundscape as well as a very human examination of vulnerabilities and opportunities for growth.