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Demo reviews
by Preacher of Traction and Brainstorm

Synesthetics - STS-01 : Lucy in the Sky with Deities

"The word psychedelic is a neologism coined from the Greek words for "mind," (psyche), and "manifest," (delos).

"A psychedelic experience is characterized by the perception of aspects of one's mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly ordinary fetters. Psychedelic states are an array of experiences elicited by sensory deprivation as well as by psychedelic substances. Such experiences include hallucinations, changes of perception, synesthesia, altered states of awareness, mystical states, and occasionally states resembling psychosis."

- Wikipedia

One of the most misidentified things in history, psychedelia is a label that is often applied to a lot of different things, whether they're just colourful, a bit out of the ordinary, or perhaps from a certain era. There was a lot of psychedelic stuff going on in the Sixties, but just because someone played a guitar back then, it doesn't mean that they were kissing the sky or making great art about it. I find this quite sad, since it often means that the great gems of true psychedelia, such as (in music) Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies or any single 13th Floor Elevators album, get lost in the midst. This is especially true with demos, which often try to pass trance music and colourful visuals off as psychedelia.

Transitions and random associations, the pipe-smoking Sentinel on a quest to innerspace, quick and yet flawless jumps from one visual style to another, the fantastic beginning with a whole different, metamorphed take on the first scene of the original Deities, sudden flashes of flower patterns like closed-eye visuals, ayahuasca and dimethyltryptamine. Inside my brain, this demo is the epitome of real psychedelia, not just the (albeit great) trance and flashy visuals as its predecessor.

The monotonous beat and the slow transformation of the Sentinel into a bodiless void of consciousness, and then smoothly back curling upon itself is a flash of brilliance rarely witnessed in demos. The subtly recycled elements in the visuals tie it to the rest of the Synesthetics mythos, but conceptually and in "realness", this stands in a league of its own.

Is there a point, a plot, or even a concept in this demo? Is this demo a joke, as some have suggested, or at least not a serious production? Or is the universe a joke, and this demo just a representation of it? Does the question even matter? No.

And that is the point.

mERICAN mORANS - Consciousness Causes Collapse

mERICAN mORANS hastily presents a demo - it says so on the infofile. And hastily is indeed probably a good word for it. The visuals are rather monotonous, which is often a good thing, but here they are mostly particles with static flare images, videos of old nuclear tests and saturated glow, synced to the beat of the echoey slow trance-like soundtrack. The movement of the particles is mostly linear, there is very little progression and the filtering on the few texts (about the Trinity test in New Mexico, when the first nuclear explosive was detonated, and the credits) doesn't quite look good.

And still, there is creeping, tingling magic here. The kind of magic that makes you wonder just what it is, in the end. It is not the technical merits -- though there's nothing actually wrong with the demo, only the fact that it really doesn't contain anything new or innovative. Perhaps it's the way the patterns flash in sync with the music, turning in to some kind of a wave inside your consciousness...almost synesthesia. Or maybe it's the slow progression and eerie concept that are revealed when you watch the demo enough times; you don't realize it on the first couple of runs, but your subconsciousness still reacts to it.

Sometimes, and way too rarely, a demo that hasn't got a lot of merit on any single side comes along and busts the bank. This demo is one of those very special cases, and one of my absolute favourites from 2007.

Kooma - Painter's Algorithm 0

I might be old, but I paint myself beautiful. This is the statement that this short piece of ambience and abstraction makes so eloquently. Painter's algorithm refers to a technique in computer graphics where you render a scene from back to front so that the scene will look correct (you "paint" on top of the more distant objects), only this demo takes it literally, conjuring up still visuals of paintings, not entirely unlike the style of Claude Monet. The images are accompanied by a soundtrack -- no -- sounds, that are almost as abstract as the visuals, though they carry the same otherworldly quality as the visuals, and are inseparably tied to the images.

In the demoscene, the only thing I've seen that contains anything like this is Paper by Psychic Link, and even that comparison doesn't really do this demo justice. You either love it, or you don't get it, but it should not leave you cold in any way. Personally, I am already waiting for the sequel with dog and bear.

Calodox - Polystreptikum

To me, the most shocking things about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the images of people like shadows, burned to charcoal in an instant, leaving only a silhouette of themselves behind -- the end of existence in a flash of brilliant light. The last in the *ikum series, Polystreptikum by Calodox paints before us a world not unlike that. It's bleak, depressive and hypnotic, with an ominous threat hanging in the air like the eerie light before the thunderstorm. Only here, the distinctive rendering style is over-saturated with red, black and white, like a photograph at the moment of the deadly flash; colors warped around in the Japanese morning of 1945.

Dots, structures forming suddenly from the flowing chaos, the sun blown into pieces of particles like ash, frozen in time. Time running backwards, skeletons of buildings appearing from the wind, only to be blown to pieces again. Abstract, like all the *ikums before it, this last intro of the *ikum saga is a worthy ending to the series.

Adapt - Constant Glow

Sometimes, it seems that the entire scene is boring and stagnant, with the same old people doing their things. Very few newcomers ever seem to make an impact, instead making one or two productions, getting laughed at on pouet.net and then disappearing forever. Thankfully there are also new groups like Adapt, with ideas, vision and their unique style.

Constant Glow is the third Adapt demo, the previous one being nominated for the Breakthrough Performance scene.org Award. Like its predecessors, it's ambient, monotonous, and despite the lush visuals, even minimalistic in some strange way. Constant Glow is dominated by, as the title already reveals, an all-permeating red and white glow. First you think the scenes resemble an inside of a volcano, and all of a sudden it morphs into an abstract rendition of the human heart and the light goes on in your head. Adapt beats with the constant glow, it says, and indeed you can hear the heartbeat in the soundtrack that evolves subtly, supporting the visuals (or is it the other way around? For the heartbeat is what makes this demo special).

Morphing, twisting, abstract forms generated on the fly, the play of light and shadow on the walls and the hand-painted graphics, which on the first look do not fit the demo at all, but end up giving it an oblique dimension of its own, and the echoing guitar: these are the elements that make up the otherworldly ambience. One can only marvel at Deepr's ability to create effects so strange and unique that some people might fix them as bugs, and to actually make them work. The only thing totally wrong with this demo are the occasionally appearing scrollers which break the flow of the visuals and, despite being very nice for a bunch of scrollers, do not contribute anything of substance to the demo at all.

As I wrote on pouet somewhere, Adapt is love. They have just begun. They will accomplish great things, and this is just the start. Highly recommended.

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