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Ascension Constraint, part I - Reviewed

-Johnna Sisneros

Pharmacose Ascension's Constraint - Part I Album Cover Photo Credit: @TAGPublicity

What do cyberpunk dystopias, alternative rock, and the state of Florida all have in common?

If your answer was anything other than Pharmacose, the hard-techno rock collaboration project hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, then you are in for a treat. Fronted and almost exclusively performed and produced by Wes Jones, the alt-rock collaboration has featured themes that draw from brutally honest concepts such as mental health challenges, existentialism, dissociation, and the all too real side effects of psychiatric medication.

In Pharacose’s latest release “Ascension Constraint, Part I” Jones once again delves into the nitty gritty aspects of life in this first part of a concept project that extrapolates themes of corporate greed and corruption through a wicked sci-fi cyberpunk dystopian future narrative.

The nine-track album opens on a powerhouse note with “Cleanse You,” a formidably driving anthem with a fervent drum beat and growling rhythm guitar. The lyrics are simplistic and written mostly in the second person from the perspective of someone trying to help someone who either doesn’t need help or doesn't want it.

In stark contrast to the first track, the following song “If I Were Better” utilizes a cold open of low register beats to create an almost dejected ambiance initially. That is, until the myriad of synths layer upon each other into an explosion of sonic complexity and lyrics that overflow with notable righteous anger.

Throughout the album, Jones utilizes a variety of key signatures and music theory to evoke different emotions for different tracks. Some tracks feature a dejection in D minor in which the character may ruminate on their feelings of powerlessness with the odds stacked against them. Other tracks use an ignition of G minor to express feelings of defiance and strength.

This evocation is made even more salient with innovative synth layering and creative guitar distortions. The third track, “Beyond The Singularity,” boasts a powerful percussive drive and a growly rhythm guitar. Juxtaposed with potent vocals and raw lyrics with something to say, Jones creates a rallying war cry that carries throughout the album.

“Ascension Constraint, Part I” delivers an almost subverted 80s ambiance and a musical complexity that feels as if it isn’t just a concept album but a fully scored soundtrack to the narrative that Jones has created. It’s hard to listen without seeing the points of life with each subdivision of synth, you can almost feel the movement and color through the music as if every instrument and part comes together to create an intricate world of corruption and greed, but also resistance and solidarity. Jones manages to create a fictional world within his music that is fantastical and detailed but also not too far from our world.

The fifth track, “Unworthy” highlights the use of dynamics to create an almost lull from the high energy that is effervescent throughout the album. Followed by the raucous sixth track “Make ‘Em Pay,” Jones once again utilizes contrast as a plot point throughout the concept album.

There are highs and lows, moments in which you can tell that the character is struggling and others in which you can tell that the character is on top of the world.

Throughout the album, lyrics are used strategically, not necessarily to tell the story but to reaffirm the emotion that Jones is connoting. With very little overt description the listener can fully conceptualize this dystopian hellscape in technicolor flashes and vivid frames that blend visceral emotion and symbolic narrative into a kind of musical worldbuilding.

“Ascension Constraint, Part I” closes out with a slow build electronica anthem, “Obey” that is vaguely reminiscent of Muse’s “Resistance” album. “Obey '' manages to close out one storyline, and also subsequently leave us on the cliffhanger of another.

With a catchy lead guitar, strong lyrics, and booming melodies, Pharmacose manages to blend the anti-establishment sentiment of the punk movement with the musical complexity of the techno-shaoegaze scene, coming together to create an innovative concept album that is sure to get listeners fired up to abolish corporatism and bring down the powers that be.

Read our recent interview with Wes Jones of Pharmacose HERE


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