Covenant

Synergy: Live in Europe

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The whole point of live performance releases by synthesizer bands is often called into question, and often rightly so -- there is little live except the sounds of screams and cheers in these recordings as the synths render their electronic sound in prearranged patterns. Few electro acts manage to find the way to capture their live magic in a CD release, and it appears that Covenant is the first to find its way since Front 242's Re-Boot: Live '98. Synergy: Live in Europe captures the ebb and flow of the live energy with arrangements that seem built for live impact. Covenant fans would have no complaints with the material, as Synergy: Live in Europe is a solid track-by-track compendium of all the high points of the previous releases. In fact, the revisits to older material often benefit from the dual effect of being reshaped for live performance and made over with the latest musical accomplishment of Covenant. "Feedback" is smoother and slicker without losing its crunchy electro edge, and "I Am" reveals new aspects that make it more approachable and lively than the original studio release. For better not worse, the Synergy: Live in Europe recordings are not just pressing "Play" on a stage. This is perhaps less true of the material played from United States of Mind, which formed the centerpiece of the tour as the current release at the time of the recording. Instead, Eskil Simonsson's energy and dynamic on-stage charisma come to the fore, ever-present and guiding the crowd to its peak. The ingredients work -- even the less memorable points of United States of Mind, such as "Helicopter," find a new relevance and energy in the Synergy: Live in Europe recording. The actual mixdown of the live recording suits the mood, too -- the crowd is there alongside Simonsson's address, but not to the point that the music loses the stage. At the same time, voice and synths are almost as defined as in the studio -- this is a good release for loud listening. Synergy: Live in Europe settles the score for all who wondered whether Covenant could weave its spell in a live performance, or whether it was worth electronic bands making live recordings at all. This live release will work for all existing fans of Covenant, who will appreciate the new takes on the material. By no means would this replace the reference of the studio versions, but there is definitely enough here to warrant any double-up.

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