Saint-Samuel is well-known for his elaborate, complex, and captivating retrosynth scores. On his latest four-song EP, Machine Code for Beginners, he doubles down on his reputation.
Not content to make a “neon night drive Miami Vice” template-based instrumental synthwave record, the Montreal-based producer writes cuts that feature musical conversations and vast soundscapes that owe as much to the 70s progressive rock of the likes of Yes as they do the 80s work of Tangerine Dream.
Following that formula, the music of Saint-Samuel (also known as Stéphane Richard) always has a cavalcade feel to it, but it also calls to mind the freewheeling nature of a hundred chats at a soiree, twisting and turning through a tête-à-tête of cascading melodies and gigantic rhythms. In this way Machine Code sounds like a companion piece to his March album Carrousel.
The new EP also bears resemblance to its predecessor in another way: How Richard made it. Carrousel’s team of synthesizers, drum machines, and guitars, run through a Lo-fi TASCAM multitrack tape recorder, make another showing on this new EP.
I’m not dogmatic about how records are made, but the added variables that come with how Richard does it make for a more interesting record. There are many moments across “Visual Basic,” “Syntax Error,” “1983’s Edition,” and “Machine Code for Beginners” that call to mind a meticulous mad scientist quality that never sounds sanitized or even containable. It often seems as if Richard is barely holding these sentient machines together.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.