Wow; All I can say is, "Wow."
I have many submissions come across my desk here at Live and Amplified, but I rarely find an album that genuinely blows me away. Within the first few seconds of listening to Android Superstation's This Side of Nowhere, I knew that I was in for some kind of ethereal, galactic treat. Composed by members Danny Day Church (vocals, guitar), Heather Moore (keyboards, vocals), James Yan (bass guitar), and Marc Voss (drums), this Orange County progressive rock group is truly a diamond in the rough. I am so blessed to have become acquainted with their music and will most definitely follow them in the years to come. These are prodigy-level musicians who work in fluid flow with one another. Boasting emotional lyrics and vocals, beautifully moving bass lines, epic drums, wail-y Pink Floyd-like guitar solos, and Muse-level piano and keyboard runs, Android Superstation has it all.
This Side of Nowhere was produced by the members of Android Superstation and was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Hear No Evil studios in Orange County, California. Though the band has only been together since 2017, their talents boast otherwise. This Side of Nowhere took roughly two-and-a-half years to complete, and even includes a graphic novel as an extra element to listening (https://www.androidsuperstation.com/universe).
I got such an eerie, post-apocalyptic feeling while reading the graphic novel's Prologue and listening to the album at the same time. I highly recommend looking at this incredible piece of art; it has a lot to say.
Right off the bat, I hear so many subtle musical intricacies and ethereal vocal effects in This Side of Nowhere. I would genuinely love to see this band live (and would pay a fair amount of money to do so - even in a small local venue). This type of progressive genre beckons for fog machines and epic laser and mood lighting effects. Android Superstation boasts so much raw emotion. Please, please, do yourself a favor, and listen to this album.
The first track on this project, "This Side of Nowhere," oscillates between quiet, smooth sections and more intense rock portions. I especially dig the breakdown at four minutes in. It's a killer way to add some diversity to the track, and I love the simplistic hits from the bass and synth, which perfectly line up with Voss' drum accents. As a bassist myself, I got particularly excited when I heard Yan switch back to a moving bass line (with octaves) at around 4:17. The backing vocals on "This Side of Nowhere" add the perfect touch to the piece, and I think that this is one hell of an opening tune.
"Alive" begins with a space-like transition section at the beginning of the track. Moore's piano work really reminds me of Muse in this piece. I love the drums early on in this song (Voss has a nice tom tone and a stellar cymbal sound, along with a sharp, crisp snare). Yan has the perfect, round bass tone, and the overall panning and vocal mixing is excellent (Hats off to you, Hear No Evil Studio!). This is some fantastic production work. It definitely makes me feel alive.
"After You" makes me feel like I am about to embark on Disney's Space Mountain. Moore does some BEAUTIFUL piano work here, and there is an extraordinary buildup as the song moves forward. "After You" would make a great concert starter, and I definitely said "wow" out loud while being swept up in this song. Moore is truly an incredible synth/piano player, and her classical piano training really shines through in this band. (Heather, please tell me that you own a keytar. You would rock it on stage.) I love Yan's especially low bass work in this song, and I don't even have words for the end of this track. Chills.
"Fractured" boasts some rad dirty tones in the bass and guitar. This track got my adrenaline going and heart beating a little faster. This was the song that I listened to while looking into Android Superstation's graphic novel. What a crazy feeling.
For all of you piano-lovers out there, "All There Is" contains a beautiful, emotional keyboard part. It is genuinely moving and pulls at the heart-strings (especially when Church's beautiful vocals come back in). This track makes me want to cry.
"Through The Darkness" is a nice touch to This Side of Nowhere. I really applaud Android Superstation's choice to break up the male vocals with some lovely female flair. I like the traditional organ sound and appreciate the fact that "Through The Darkness" is more simplistic than some of the other tracks that we have heard thus far. This simplicity gives listeners' ears a break. I love the ever-ascending synthesizer, and the crazy, descending piano scales. The out-of-the-ordinary astral sounds and unique choice of bass notes are a nice touch, too. This song is very progressive, yet the interesting choice of notes somehow still fit together in a way that works. The ending of this piece is epic and would make for a great addition to any movie soundtrack.
"Victorious" has some really hard-hitting drums starting at 0:56. This is my favorite drum track on the album. Nice work on the double bass pedal, Voss.
I love the synth parts that ascend and descend in "The Absence of Light." The way that we hear the top end coming through is really quite lovely. Church and Yan both chose complimentary guitar and bass tones that blend well together in this song. (I would love to know what pedals they are using.) Church's vocal "ooo's" are very Muse-like, and the cool "dripping" sound effects are a fun addition to the track.
"Faith" contains some drum hits early on that sound just like a heartbeat. I am infatuated with Church's acoustic guitar in this song because it is different and breaks up the "rock" feel that we have heard so much of. Moore's piano notes are tasteful and simple, and there is such a subtle build in this track (especially in drums). The left/right panning with the vocals (starting at around 4:00) is really great. I particularly like Moore's extra vocal part that comes through in only one ear.
I applaud the fact that the opening of "Collide" is only instrumental. Some stellar upper piano scales are going on, along with interesting clock-ticking and whisperings (creepy!). "Collide" is, in my opinion, the darkest track on This Side of Nowhere. I most definitely found myself looking over my shoulder while listening to this track with headphones on, and physically jumped when someone walked into my office. The section of "Collide" beginning at around 6:00 contains some awesome fuzz tones; this must have been a blast to record. There is such a good fade at the end of this track, and I love the cricket sounds and "pitter-patters" panned between the left and right headphones. Just a word of advice about this song, though: don't listen to it alone in the dark!
Finally, we come to "The Other Side." Even though I am typically a very hard rock type of listener, I was caught off guard by the fact that this closing piece ended up being my favorite track on the album. Church's simple acoustic guitar and vocals grabbed my attention, and at first, I was actually wondering if I was even listening to the same band! This entire song is relatively different from the rest of the songs on This Side of Nowhere. I absolutely love the lyrics, and they hit me right in the middle of my heart. This is precisely what good lyrics do. The clean guitar and bass tones are a nice break from the "fuzz" tones that we heard earlier on in the album, and the hi-hat sounds very clean in this track. Voss' drums have a nice balance between the highs, mids, and lows. I really get Pink Floyd vibes here, especially in the emotional, raw, and wailing guitar solo. "The Other Side" is an anthem and a ballad containing beautiful chord progressions. The more simplistic instrumental work allows listeners to really focus on what is being said, and the ending left me emotional, feeling as though Android Superstation was on a rocket ship, flying through space.
All in all, Android Superstation does not disappoint. Where the heck did this group come from? Their musicality is off the charts, and their unique sound effects are not cheesy or overdone (which is very difficult to do). There is so much good in this album; I can't possibly articulate all of it.
All I can say now is, "Wow."
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Cover Photo: Erin Elmassian