Synchestra: Unleashing the Transdimensional Space Goat on America’s Wickedest Street

I’ve written before about my reliance on music to form an appropriate mood while I’m writing, and how music can influence a story I’m working on. And I’ve written about my constant search for new and stimulating musical experiences. The point is: I really love music. A while back, someone posted the following pic on Facebook, and yeah, I totally get it:

That moment when the music is so good you turn into a transdimensional space goat

My latest transdimensional space goat moments have come from a musical selection called Synchestra by the Devin Townsend Band. Devin Townsend has been around for more than 20 years, recording under a number of different band names, although I only discovered him about six months ago. That introduction, by the way, came via another band that’s influenced some of my recent writing, Voyager. When Voyager tweeted about opening some shows last fall for the Devin Townsend Project down in Australia, I figured DTP was worth checking out, which led to finding all the other Townsend permutations. 

At different times, and under different band names, Townsend is known for playing everything from thrash metal and death metal to ambient and new age music. (His biography says he suffers from bipolar disorder, so that musical range kind of makes sense. I guess.) He hits the sweet spot for me in the progressive metal area, which is where I’d place Synchestra.

On his website, Townsend writes, “The idea behind Synchestra is that the whole world is a single entity and we are all elements of that.” Sounds like a good subject for progressive rock to me. It also helps explain why this CD holds together so well as a complete package. Sure, there are a few tracks that might stand out individually, but it really needs to be experienced in its entirety. (Many of the tracks play right into their neighbors so that it’s hard to play them separately.)

The first couple of tracks begin Synchestra (emphasis on the first syllable, like orchestra) with a light, acoustic mood. There’s almost a folk or Celtic sound in there. Then midway through the second song, “Hypergeek,” the electric guitars come thundering to life. It’s glorious. That sets the tone for the album—a back and forth between rough-edged yet melodic metal and slower, moodier, more contemplative sections. It’s a sharp contrast that blends quite beautifully together. Many long instrumental passages grace Synchestra, particularly in the second half, and the music is consistently compelling: There are no words, and I want to sing it anyway.

It so happened that as I started listening to this particular CD, I was also starting work on a new short story, one to answer a call for submissions for stories relating to Denver’s Colfax Avenue. Apparently, Colfax was once called “the longest, wickedest street in America” in Playboy magazine, and with good reason. Along its 26-mile stretch are some of Denver’s seedier neighborhoods, as well as some well-known landmarks and points of historical interest. It’s a street of contrasts, just like the music I listened to almost constantly while creating a story based there.

Synchestra helped me stay in the mood to explore Colfax’s darker corners but also, I think, to recognize something of the beauty in that gritty, urban landscape. As Townsend said, it’s all a single entity. (As I was revising, I got a good chuckle when I recognized the possible double meaning in some of the lyrics of “Babysong” as they relate to what I wrote; my story has to do with the search for a missing baby.)

But now I’m just going to put on Synchestra, turn it up loud, and make my transdimensional space goat face. Feel free to join me.

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins

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4 thoughts on “Synchestra: Unleashing the Transdimensional Space Goat on America’s Wickedest Street

  1. c2london

    Have you heard Kishi Bashi? The one song at least reminds me of him. Maybe I should experiment with writing to a soundtrack. I mean I do use music when I’m writing, but I select something that fits. I think I’ll try listening more or less “randomly” and writing. I’ll start with KB.

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    1. bkwins Post author

      No, haven’t heard of Kishi Bashi, but I’ll give him a try. I don’t necessarily choose something specific ahead of time, but often during the course of writing, a particular artist/CD/playlist will emerge. In this case, I didn’t know the Synchestra album when I started writing, although I’d been listening to other Townsend selections. It was serendipity that I tried this album and it struck the right chord for this particular writing project. Funny how things like that happen.

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