(feat. track – “Exclusive Coupe” [soundcloud] from the Myrone EP)
Who is Hugh Myrone?
The simple answer is: I have no idea. I don’t even know if the name Myrone, which he records under, is his real name. I don’t know where he comes from. Until I heard his voice on a podcast this week (more on this later), I wasn’t even sure he was a native English-speaker – his interests, if not his roots, reach from 80’s euro-guitar prodigies to Japanese vaporwave and net-culture. He posted some Instagram photos and videos recently from NAMM, the annual music industry trade show that leans toward the shreddy and technically-proficient; naturally, his face is obscured. Prior to that, I couldn’t have even proved he existed in meatspace – he might as well have been a digital creation.
What I do know is that Myrone is making some jaw-droppingly great music. Mining a vein that has sat relatively untapped since the days when Shreddasaurs walked the earth, Myrone’s trademark #softshred (which I swear is going to be this year’s #seapunk) combines the technical wankery of a Vai or Malmsteen with an incredible ear for instrumental pop hooks. To that end, while his playing has a super-melodic quality that reminds me a little of Satriani, maybe the most apt comparison is to Eddie Van Halen – though their styles differ wildly, both put forward a technical prowess on the guitar which often overshadows the fact that, secretly, they’re super awesome synth composers. Bottom line is, Myrone can play, but so can lots of folks – it only matters because he writes such great songs.
And, oh man, how great they are! ”Exclusive Coupe,“ the second song Myrone released and the centerpiece of his debut EP, evinces an fully-formed aesthetic – pulsing synth bass, loping, stretchy guitar leads that occasionally break apart in a crystalline shatter of notes, deceptively killer synth hooks, and a sense of forward momentum and tight pop composition. (Either Myrone has been incubating his talent for years, or he’s a born genius… or both.) Later tracks collected on the EP find Myrone at play within that established framework, pushing up against the boundaries with the urban funk of ”61“ and the soaring shuffle of ”The Pump Master.“
His later Soundcloud singles do one better, breaking out of that framework entirely. ”Net / Knowledge“ is a gorgeous, play-over-the-credits power ballad. ”Kinda Epic“ proves that Myrone is an exceptionally skilled songwriter and sideman; even with vocalist Azeem taking center stage, it’s Myrone’s blistering, exuberant synth- funk composition that stars. ”Heating Up“ kicks on the afterburners, a blazing, high-tempo workout with a perfectly constructed tension/release chorus. Best of all is ”Virtual Island Paradise,“ a song I once described as “the background music from a Baywatch montage” – except Myrone does it better than the real thing. It takes both skill and understanding to create something so deeply evocative of a specific time and place, and yet the song is so catchy, so endlessly listenable, that it never rings hollow the way period pieces often do. Myrone’s songs are full of the one thing that so much guitar-oriented instrumental music lacks: soul.
Late in 2014, Myrone connected with the developers of indie retro-racer Drift Stage; his soundtrack is set to be a key element of the gaming experience. One listen to “Drift Stage [Main Theme],” with its whammy-ed up, overdriven lead, should make it clear just how natural a pairing this is. I only hope that soundtrack composition doesn’t slow down his development as a writer; as naturally suited as Myrone’s music now is for a racing video game, I would hate to see anything artificially limit where, when and how he grows. Myrone’s music is my #3 collection of the year just as it exists right now; yet somehow, when I listen, what I hear most of all is potential.
So who is Hugh Myrone? I discovered Myrone just shy of a year ago, when an industry acquaintance – someone who has worked in management, A&R, publishing and more – began tweeting about some of his earliest work. And, see, that’s the rub. I could find out from that acquaintance who this guy is – but I’m not sure I want to. The #softshred legend he’s building; the visage of a guitar superhero, the kind that seemingly vanished from the earth decades ago; seems inevitably more fascinating than the reality of the man behind the mask. I’m content to just listen to the music and imagine.