A Story Without Words: Crockett’s “The Revenant”

Full disclosure: I’ve been a fan of Crockett since I first joined Synthwave Twitter(TM) almost two years ago. I can’t remember how I first heard of him. Most likely someone tweeted one of his early albums, most probably The Heist, and from that day forward I was a fan. His skill in music production is very evident with every release he puts on Bandcamp and his current album, The Revenant, is no exception.

Labeled as a spiritual successor to his previous 2015 release The Heist, The Revenant is based on the same concept: The soundtrack to a film produced in the 1980’s that (sadly) does not exist. The album artwork, a palm tree laden scene that looks like Miami at night, printed on what appears to be a cassette tape cover that has seen some wear from decades of age, evokes Crockett’s namesake as part of the duo of cops in the popular 1980’s TV series Miami Vice.

The album starts out much as The Heist does, with an atmospheric track that sets the stage. Yet, unlike The Heist, which starts with the peaceful sound of the ocean, a dark synth pad sounds out its drone. After a short time a lead plays, blasting through the dark atmosphere of the drone. The movie has started and the anticipation of what is to come is heightened.

This opening track masterfully blends into the helicopter blade bassline of “Into the Light.” The first act of The Revenant has just begun. Tom rolls heighten the tension as soft synths are occasionally interrupted by a booming sound in the bass.

Then, on queue, actual helicopter blades are heard on top of police radio (both of which were used to great effect in “Getaway,” a track from Crockett’s previous release The Heist). The drums kick in and this movie/album shifts into high gear. “Break for the Border” sets the stage for what kind of movie this is: A high octane action film, the kind of movie that stars Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, and no, I’m not talking about Rhinestone or Twins.

The tension only builds with the intro arpeggios of “Losing the Heat.” I’m in it now. This movie is full on and I am glued to my seat. The bass pounds out its syncopated rhythm. How are our protagonists getting out of the mess that they created for themselves in The Heist?

They’ve lost the cops and are back on solid ground with the next track, “Familiar Streets.” It’s time to recuperate, which would be hard enough even if there wasn’t a huge, brand new problem to surmount. How the hell could anyone get out of this? Time to take a step back and assess the situation. The cops are waiting for a slip up. The job is going to be that much harder to pull off now. Thankfully there are some people with talent that our protagonists know in this familiar territory.

Thus begins the second act of The Revenant, “Assembling a Crew.” Let’s get the most badass people together with the kind of next level skills that can get this job done. It won’t be easy, but if anyone can accomplish the impossible it’s this ragtag gang of crazy motherfuckers who have nothing to lose. The bassline has a strut to it, a swagger, as the situation is explained to everyone in the group, but the melody comes with a warning: This job will either be the biggest payoff of all time or it will end in defeat, and by defeat I mean everyone ends up either dead or in jail. There can be no mistakes.

They can’t just rush in. They need a plan. “Blueprints” starts with a pounding bassline and arpeggio. Pitched toms introduce the melody. We have the best minds working on this. It’s so fucking crazy that it just might work. They have to be insane to think that they have a prayer of doing this successfully. New melodies appear against the thumping bass and atmospheric arpeggio. “We got a map, here’s the plan…” A synth with guitar effects blasts its retort “Yeah, I’m not betting the farm that THAT is going to work…” The quip is quickly shrugged off. “You got a better idea?” The scheme continues. Pitched toms recapitulate the previous theme: “This IS going to work, we just need everyone to stick to the plan…” The bassline plays out the remainder of the track. The plan is set into motion and everyone knows their part. There can be no mistakes.

The computer expert gets to work. The first step is underway. “Mainframe” starts up with the sounds of computer fans and mechanical keyboards clicking away over a soft synth pad in the background. A dark bassline and toms introduce a forlorn melody. There is no going back now; it’s all or nothing. This is the point of no return. An arpeggio chirps out its confirmation: They’re in. So far everything is going according to plan…

They’ve disabled the security system. It’s time for the climax of the second act. “Masks On” starts off with the crew storming the facility. Shots are fired. “NOBODY FUCKING MOVE!” They better be quick, the security system has a fail-safe. It will be back online soon enough. One of the best melodies of the album plays out. It sounds triumphant. This is really happening! It’s going almost too smoothly. Is there a catch? Anything they missed? There’s no time to dwell on thoughts like that. Everyone is in sync. Everyone is in rhythm, in time, and in lock step with one another. The situation is tense but there’s a feeling of glory to it all-the fact that no one in the world would have the talent to make this plan a reality. No one except this group, at least, or someone else would have tried it already. If someone actually had the guts and the know-how this would have already been done because this is a score beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Think Fort Knox times a thousand. The breakdown at 2 minutes and 47 seconds into the track is the crew breathing a sigh of relief. A melody with a shaky LFO modded pitch conveys the wavering of a human voice. “W-we did it,” someone stutters. A less timid member of the crew replies “No other group of crazy motherfuckers could have ever done what we just did. We’re the best in the world! I CAN NOT BELIEVE WE FUCKING PULLED THIS OFF!” The toms kick in, introducing a guitar lead (Is it a guitar, though? Crockett is a master of making synths sound like guitars. As he once described to me via twitter he uses the Sylenth plugin and a guitar amp effects plugin. It sounds so convincing and stands as testament to Crockett’s ability to get any sounds that he wants). This lead shouts out its elation at a job well done.

The third act begins. They have a Fence. Someone powerful. Connected. They get this cargo to him and it’s the end of a job well done. It’s the last link in the chain. They get rid of this hot merchandise and they can rest easy. Even if the cops did suspect it was them the police could search their places over and over and they wouldn’t find anything. The stolen contraband will be gone. All the loose ends are being tied up. They’re waiting. The kick drum heartbeat thump-thumps in anticipation. The bassline to “Bait” is one of the more nervous members of the crew pacing frantically back and forth. “What is taking so long?” The phone finally rings…

“Setting Up a Final Meeting” begins with palm muted synth guitar and an arpeggio. The ringing phone is picked up. The Fence is on the line. They just gotta schedule a drop-off and this will all be over. A melody plays. Everyone dreams of what they’re going to do with this money because it is definitely going to 180 their lives. Some talk of going straight. With this money they will no longer have to resort to crime to make a living. They talk of improving themselves as people and of righting some wrongs that they have committed in their collective checkered pasts. Still others say fuck that, they’re going to buy their own island in the Bahamas and party 24/7. A heartbeat plays out the track. There’s just one more thing that has to be done and everything everyone has ever wanted will be delivered to them, tax free, no questions asked.

“Last Chance” opens up with a rainstorm. Of course the drop-off had to be scheduled in some of the foulest weather any one of them has ever seen. The atmosphere is damp and dreary. No one is in a good mood. “This abandoned pier looks like a fine place to die, and this old fish packing plant smells like the all of the fish in all seven seas simultaneously died and defecated in it. Damn, this old place hasn’t been used in decades, you’d think the smell would have cleared out by now…” Someone retorts, “Hey, you want out you can just turn tail and run. I’d be happier if you did. That leaves more for everyone else here, punk…” “You think you could have done this without me? You’re dreaming!” A car pulls up. Immediately everyone’s spirit is lifted. This is the moment they have all been waiting for. The mood of the track instantly transforms into a dreamscape of opportunity that has just been afforded to everyone involved. The very dance-able bassline and airy melody conveys the joy that the crew is experiencing. Nothing to worry about now. Congratulations to everyone on a job well done! Then a knock comes on the door…

The ticking of a clock introduces “Confrontation,” accompanied by the low drone of a bass. The drums kick in. Something is wrong. Everyone can feel it. How could they have let themselves get talked into this situation? They got greedy, that’s how. Their collective arrogance will lead to their eventual downfall, one way or another. The drums build and build. The toms mercilessly beat towards a buzzy bassline. The crew has been set up.

A foreboding bass sounds out. A portentous synth pad rises and falls, introducing a delay-laden arpeggio. Just like that two of the crew are dead, taken out by snipers. Looks like the Fence was too well connected. He brought crooked cops to help him finish the job. Even if anyone survives this whole ordeal the law will hunt them mercilessly, and to the end of the earth. They have no choice but to run. The cargo is left at the warehouse. Maybe the Fence will just take it and be happy? Yeah, fat chance of that. They’ll all be wanted criminals now with no place to hide. This was a bad idea and they knew it. They make their getaway in the night. “And So It Ends” is aptly named, but is this the end of the story or just the beginning? Will there be a sequel to The Revenant just like there was a sequel to The Heist? What will become of these people? The last ominous bass note sounds out, and the credits roll.

It’s highly unlikely that Crockett intended this screenplay to play out in everyone’s mind, but this is what played out in my mind while I listened to The Revenant. This is what makes The Revenant both an amazing album and a fine example of a sythwave producer at the top of his game. My mind literally went to another place while I listened to this album. I don’t expect this movie to play out the same in everyone’s head (or anyone’s head really, it kind of highlights the fact that I don’t know the first thing about writing a script), but perhaps that is what I like most about The Revenant: A different movie will play out in the mind of each individual listening to it, thus creating thousands of different stories from just one album.

You can listen to The Revenant via these outlets, and I highly recommend that you do:

Bandcamp: https://crockett.bandcamp.com/album/the-revenant

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Revenant-Crockett/dp/B07L22XCT9

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-revenant/1445337171

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4obYUJM3nbb659Ln0lSHXv

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/music/artist?id=Afoyzoonrwtlt4unk3ukq4ei4ie

One more thing: If you have a film project that needs music I strongly recommend hitting Crockett up. He can be reached via Twitter: @Crockett80s

Also, and I promise this is the last thing, if you play the Fiasco RPG and need some background music for your playset that takes place in Miami during the drug wars of the 1980’s then, well, this is the perfect album.

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