Music usually tells a story. And great composers often tell the best stories. When the pandemic descended over the world, veteran sci-fi dystopian storyteller Lindsay Olsen holed up in her apartment and built “a temporary synth space station fortress” out of keyboards and computers. Safe inside her instrumental fortification, she proceeded to imaginatively collaborate with kindred synth adventurers like Soccer96 from the U.K., who added what she calls a “jacking cosmic psychedelic rock and jazz touch” to the title track, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, who added strings, as well as Juuwah, Brijean, Danalogue, and Sergio Machado Plim to create Akousmatikous, a sequel to her much-praised 2019 album Zdenka 2080.  

Salami Rose Joe Louis - Matt Cowen
Salami Rose Joe Louis - Matt Cowen

The story here is similarly complex. Asked for a short synopsis, Olsen elucidated, “Akousmatikous/Akousmatikoi (or acousmatic) translates to ‘sound where there is no identifiable source.” The Akousmatikoi were a sect of Pythagorean mystics who focused on ritual, harmony, and ethical behavior. In my conceptual sci-fi story, Akousmatikous is the name of a being from another galaxy who comes to earth to question the motivation of her old friend, Zeeanori, who has been using imagery to manipulate the minds of the earthlings into a state of complacency.”While that narrative is not always apparent, the ideas and experimentation are. In “Sugar Coating,” Olsen blends the universal, “Oh my dear we started losing/ When we took more than we need” with the obviously personal, “Like we have a say/ When all of our fate/ Belongs to a few unstable guys/ With access to our lives.” While the vocals remain high and light throughout, the settings vary.

In the short “Fireflies,” which explores the fear-and-joy duality of falling in love, keyboards twinkle under innocent utterings in lines like “Bicycles through the night/ Kiss by moonlight.” An appealing thump powers the successful dance track, “Propaganda.” Contrasting low and high-toned rolling rhythms drive “The Giddy Aquatic,” as well as “Cathartic Interlude.” These compositions tend to change in interesting ways as the mood strikes. “In Gradients” features looping synth gulps and gasps overlayed with held chords that pulsate before becoming gentle synth chords over which Olsen multi-layers her voice repeating, “I would go out walking/ Just to look in your eyes.”

Salami Rose Joe Louis - 'Sugar Coating' (Official Video)


Closing with “Exhaustion and the Open Mind,” which mixes metallic notes, synth shimmers, and a steady programmed rhythm, the principal of our story observes, “We define and thus we simplify,” before concluding, “Better to let you alone so you can learn to be.” In the end, Olsen pleads for keeping an open mind, while she continues her search for global solutions, lasting meaning, and a better way forward.