Dream Droid’s “Runner” Synth Album Review

He’s a music, art, and writing aficionado! Karl has been working as a freelance writer for more than ten years.

Alexander Duvall (Luma Visual LLC) created the artwork.

First Impressions

It may not push the genre forward, but sometimes all I want is entertainment, and Runner delivers in spades. Dream Droid’s Runner is a well-executed take on classic Outrun/synthwave that captures feelings of energy, dynamism, and the open road unfurling beneath the tires of a powerful car rushing through a retro future city’s neon-lit night.

The guitar sounds create an overwhelming sense of speed and forward momentum, which is in keeping with the album’s overall theme. The freewheeling guitar sounds on Runner were the first thing that caught my attention. The parts have a rocking, soaring quality to them, with the solos being particularly intricate and energetic.

Many have an arcing, leaping quality to them that adds to the album’s dynamic feel, and a few have a slower, more wistful quality to them that balances out the higher energy moments. The strong melodies Dream Droid creates on Runner also appeal to me.

They’re mixed together in ways that add up to the classic Outrun sounds that make Runner such a fun listen. Many of the synths Dream Droid has chosen for this album have glimmering, bright qualities, and as they shine through the tracks, they imbue the music with more energy and power.

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Before a powerful car roars to life and charges down the road, leaving a swirl of exhaust noise and a yowling engine note in its wake, “Runner” creates a twilight mood with night sounds.

A high-impact drumbeat is accompanied by a dynamic, shifting series of synth notes and a pumping bass throb. The lead synth melody, which accelerates forward with intense motion, gains another dimension of energy from the repeating melodic pattern.

As the deep bass and drums continue to drive on, the metallic, chiming lead synth sings out over the insistent beat, carrying a shining line of dancing melody. The freewheeling solo is carried on a metallic, medium-high synth that soars in sparkling lines over the solidity of the beat, and it draws me in. Before the engine roars again, an insistent pattern of notes chimes sharply, and a twisting, snaking line of synth, metallic and full, unfolds through the track.

On a synth with a technological quality, the oscillating bass line and a dynamic, angular lead synth melody begin. I find it quite compelling when the lead synth switches to a brassy, trumpeting tone. Before a classic radio voice and the deep, steady throb of the beat open “Hot Shit!” there is the sound of a radio scanning stations.

Before the big tom hits come in, the angular, dynamic melody flies out over the full, solid beat and bass. Under a bending, distorted synth with a harpsichord-like quality that carries a wandering solo, the endless beat has real weight. On a bass throb and trumpeting synth, the track fades out.

As the bass line oscillates and adds weight to the music, a dense, slightly fuzzed out synth growls into the music in extending pulses, while the elevated synths sparkle above it. “Live Or Die” begins with a steady throbbing beat that pulsates into the track in waves, as glittering stars of elevated synth sparkle delicately over a swelling bass line that grows in power as the track progresses.

Underneath it all, the bass continues to flow while the electric guitar enters, adding grit to the track. I’m drawn to the guitar’s slow, passionate melodic line as it cries out into the track. As the wind sweeps through over deep bass, the guitar’s drifting and lost quality wanders through the track. The drums return, accompanied by slowly turning arpeggios and bright flashes of full, brassy synth that reverberate throughout the song.

As swirling clouds of synth coalesce into a sharp, medium-high, shimmering pattern that intertwines in glowing lines as the beat presses on, the massive retro drums that bring “Club Vector W8” to life have depth and heft. The track’s fun, retro percussion adds extra energy and helps shape it.

The richness of the dense, bursting synth that carries the uplifting, progressive melody is appealing to me. A brittle, nasal-sounding medium-high synth wheels and leaps into the music, flying through a solo that roams and cries out wildly over the pounding beat’s drive and the energetically shifting synth that plays a melodic pattern that propels the music with brightness and that unrelenting beat.

The electronic grit of the guitar sound is joined by a rapidly oscillating, glimmering synth line in “Hustle For The Muscle.” As the solid, pulsating drumbeat smacks into the track, the guitar sound carries an intricate, rapid melodic line that leaps into a soaring melody.

As it flies through the music, the guitar sound carries a taut, intricate solo. As the massive, rich drums keep going and the glowing, shifting synth pattern rises and falls, this track has a charging, surging energy. Before the guitar vaults onward again, there’s a brief break into half-time pulses. I like how the free, easy guitar sound still packs a punch while giving the impression of leaping forward.

As “Track Knight” begins, a rapidly oscillating, tense synth line shivers over jagged, dark sweeps of sound. The contrasting synth melody, which glistens with a more hopeful, slightly wistful energy, is one of my favorites. The flow of airy sound and sharp-edged pulses is turned over by a raised, nervous arpeggio. Above the relentlessly driving beat, an aching, emotive guitar solo cries out and dances.

Over the brass-like notes of synth beneath it, the guitar sound takes a flying, uplifting journey. The entire track has a sense of motion to it, and bright synth blocks flash into the track beneath the spinning guitar. A sunny synth carries a melodic pattern with an encouraging feeling, while rapidly whirling arpeggios spin around the beat.

Over the lower arpeggios and the strong beat, a sparkling chime sound repeats another glistening melodic pattern. The synthwave bassline of “Hotline” is joined by expanding, climbing arpeggiating patterns of gleaming synth. As clouds of lambent synth float through the track, I’m reminded of gently gliding across a warm summer landscape. The ticking of drums is joined by an oscillating bass line and a medium-high brassy synth.

As ethereal, smooth arpeggios are carried on round, full synths, the music drifts to the bass flow and various drum sounds. The music is guided by the beat, while the synths provide a dense backdrop for the melodic synth line, which unfolds in a light, airy glide over the bursting drums. Before the surge of brassy, round synths adds more hopeful warmth to the track, chimes glitter and move.

Final thoughts

Runner is a fun, energetic, and enjoyable blast of classic synthwave with a nice helping of considered melodies and some freewheeling guitar sounds that conjure up images of a ribbon of asphalt beneath a car’s tires and soft purple dusk all around.

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