Roland synth obsessive Michael Matlak presents a nihilist analogue vision
‘Dinsync’ is a leap into the unknown for The Analog Roland Orchestra. Despite the sophisticated alias, TARO is actually the work of lone wolf Michael Matlak, a 31-year-old synth freak originally from Poland, now living in Berlin. Although he studied violin for a decade, there is no discernible orchestral element to be found here. Instead, Matlak relies entirely on his collection of vintage Roland Corporation synths – an obsession that began many moons ago with the purchase of a TR-606 drum machine.
“I am not a big fan of software,” Matlak once claimed, but you’d never know it from this: ‘Dinsync’ sounds like any other modern electronic record made in the box. That’s an impressive feat considering these tracks were stitched together using over 30 different synths and drum machines collected by Matlak over the years.
Indeed, his love affair with Roland even extends to him co-authoring ‘R Is For Roland’, a book focusing on 23 pieces of gear made available by the legendary Japanese manufacturer between 1973 and 1987. Again, much of this technology features on ‘Dinsync’, which sees Matlak sidestep his usual dub-tinged dancefloor explorations to conjure up a set of stealthy, often short, hardware-driven electronica pieces.
Despite citing jazz keyboardist Bob James and Moog pioneer Mort Garson as inspirations, Matlak’s more contemporary interests lie in Chicago house and Detroit techno, most notably in artists such as Legowelt and Laurent Garnier. That said, this album shows far more reverence to the glacial, warped melt of Boards Of Canada, whose influence is unmistakeable. ‘Weird Vibrations’ and ‘Burned Earth’ in particular pay homage.
Naturally, with so many analogue currents coursing through its veins and married to Matlak’s conceptual “end of days” theme, there’s a somewhat desolate feel to much of the music here. This is no more apparent than on the introspective opener, ‘If…Then’, a brief and melancholic track that blends shimmering ambiences with reverberating distortion. The two-minute instrumental ‘Really’ provides equally moody surrealism.
Elsewhere, the record takes great joy in tormenting the listener, as bubbling basslines anchor syncopated tones and fermented keyboard overlays. The time-stretched vocals of ‘Safe!’ are genuinely unsettling. They shiver ghoulishly as if trapped, ‘Videodrome’ style, on a platter of crushed skulls, while the scrunched beats and rudimentary space echoes emit hopeful frequency waves, perhaps pleading for extra-terrestrial assistance.
Although ‘Dinsync’ is only 30 minutes long, Michael Matlak does a great job of dusting down and polishing up the contents of his Roland workshop to deliver a haunting exercise in contemporary dystopia. Considering the tools at his disposal, the album couldn’t possibly have sounded less telluric, but its murky analogue patina is so effective you may need to scrub yourself down with bleach afterwards.