Sunday 27 November 2022

App Review: Syntropy

App Review: Syntropy

Review by Casey Douglass


Syntropy is a word for the way that order forms from chaos, which is an apt name for a well-being app that was created by a company that itself, was formed during Covid lockdown. In the broadest of strokes, Syntropy is an app that uses art, music and breathing science to help the user to relax or to lift their mood.

If you’re anything like me, the “breathing science” part of that intro might have tickled your fancy. There are many studies that show the link between the breath and our state of relaxation or alertness and the Syntropy app utilises a mixture of audiovisual breath pacers, music, and art therapy to help bring about positive changes in the user’s state. Some of the benefits that the user might experience include improved cognitive performance, stress reduction and increased coherence between bodily systems. If you’ve read my reviews of the HeartMath Inner Balance, or of the Syntropy breath pacers when they were available separately, I get more into the science there. I'll link to those reviews at the end of this post.


When you enter the Syntropy app, it’s a good idea to click on the information icon at the top left of the screen. This opens up a selection of tutorials about how to best use each element of the app, the kinds of meditation that it aids, and it also offers more information about the artists involved. Once you’re back on the opening screen, below the video of the week, you’re presented with three categories of experience: Breathe, Relax and Elevate. Making a selection leads you to a screen on which you can choose from a number of galleries, each gallery tending to offer seven videos that you can view. The Breathe galleries are geared towards helping you to pace your breathing along with the animation of the video. The Relax section is tailored for the user to simply watch and go with the flow, and the Elevate offerings present art and music that hope to uplift the viewer’s mood.


I enjoyed the quite eclectic selection of artwork on display, and I was able to find a fair few that appealed to me. A number of the videos make excellent use of light, videos that seem to hint at the sparkling quality of sunlight as it gently reflects from rippling water, or the soft glow of sunrise and/or sunset. Two of these are in the Chromatic gallery and are called “Tabula Rasa” and “Breathe in the Light”. As far as I can tell, the Syntropy breath pacers that I reviewed previously can be found under Breathe>Geometry and Relax>Energy Centers respectively. Once again, I'll post the links below.

I found that using Syntropy proved to be a nice little break in whatever I was doing. As someone with chronic illness and perpetual anxiety, I often make time to be in the moment or to focus on a couple of breaths. I’m not always that sure that it helps to any great degree, but I do feel a little worse if I don’t. I guess like many things in life, it’s the tiny acts building up over time that make the biggest differences, for the most part. The Syntropy app is an additional way to take some time for yourself, and if you’re like me and have a very ruminative mind, having the visuals to focus on and the music to listen to often proves engrossing enough to free whichever cog is stuck in my mental cogitating machinery.


The Syntropy app’s interface is clean and easy to navigate. There is no clutter, and I found the app to be responsive and reasonably intuitive. I did encounter an issue with switching between dark and light mode however, insofar as it wouldn’t switch. I have an older android phone, so this could possibly just be a phone issue, but upon choosing light mode, the app hangs on a loading circle for minutes on end and doesn’t do anything. Even if it had worked, I’d have much rather preferred being able to switch between light and dark mode on the main screen or in the settings, rather than only seeming to be able to once I started to watch a video. Luckily, it was a minor issue for me as I do prefer the dark videos anyway.

Another area that I’d like to see tweaked is the option to download the video to your phone. This can only be done once the video is streaming, and on a slow connection, this can make it take a looong time. If you want to playback the downloaded video, you cannot play it in the same manner; you have to go into Settings>Downloads and choose it from quite a boring list of filenames. Ideally, I would like to be able to download a video from the gallery screen, and then to see some kind of visual indication that that particular file is downloaded, and then to browse the gallery when offline and be able to see which video is which. As it stands, with no net/data connection, the gallery interface doesn’t work. These two issues were the only real qualms that I had with the Syntropy app, and the download issue is just me being really fussy. I know it.


When it comes to the cost, there are a number of options. Firstly, new users get a one month free trial, which is a good way to see how you get on with things. After your trial is up, you can subscribe for £2.99 per month or pay £29.99 for a year’s access. This seems very reasonable to me, especially as Syntropy are continually expanding the number of videos available, and supporting international artists in the process. On a personal level, I also appreciate how they are bucking the trend of releasing a subscription-based well-being app that doesn’t have truly eye-watering yearly subscription prices.

The Syntropy app is a good way to give yourself some extra tools for your mental toolbox. If you’d like to check it out, you can visit the Syntropy website for more information, or you can find the app itself on the Google Play and Apple Store.

As promised, you can read some more in-depth information about certain of the breath pacers here and here. You might also like to check out my Inner Balance review, which is a gadget that helps you with the kind of breath-work promoted by the Syntropy app.

I was given free access to Syntropy for review purposes.

App Name: Syntropy

Available on: Google Play & Apple Store

Price: One Month Free Trial / £2.99 per month / £29.99 per year.

Saturday 19 November 2022

Dark Ambient Review: Solaris

Dark Ambient Review: Solaris

Review By Casey Douglass

Solaris Album Art

I often find it funny how the darkest or most sorrowful music often feels the warmest, to me at least. Sasha Darko’s drone ambient horror album Solaris is full of tracks that embody this kind dichotomy, the bleakness seemingly swaddled by the warmth in some way, maybe in much the same way as the golden light of the Sun gently heats up the cold bodies of the dead in some kind of horror flick.

The tracks contained by Solaris are themed around the idea of a Telegram channel of the same name. Each track represents a strange and unsolved cold case, with the album description mentioning people dabbling with time-travel and disappearing, or answering the phone to their future selves and being warned about how they are set to die. I went into my listening sessions very much primed with a horror and sci-fi “thought anchor” nestling into the murky bottom of my mental swamp, and this is something that shows in the imagery I've used to describe the tracks that grabbed my attention the most.

Opening track Flight to the Sun had a Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe to me, no doubt due to how the first film ended with a break for freedom at sunrise. Flight to the Sun opens with a low, gently distorting ominous rhythm. Warm, easy synth notes rock back and forth over the top. Darting jaggy tones flit bird-like in the higher reaches of the soundscape, softening a harsher whine that sits behind them. After a short while, these tones plummet like falling stars. As the midpoint approaches, things turn into a more juddery, distorted space, like reality being twisted and shredded by strange alien fingers. This is a pulsing, windy space, one that ratchets up over time. As the track reaches its end, the easier synth tones return with plucked notes along for the ride, maybe signalling a return to “almost” normalcy, but having changed something that cannot be undone.

The Mutation is another track that stood out for me, in no small part because it makes deft use of uncomfortably high tones throughout, which is something I’m not sure I’ve come across before. It opens gently enough, a sustained high drone with gentle fluctuations and beeps nestling into it. It feels like a meditative robot playing a quiet church organ. A higher pitch begins to emerge, turning into a sustained, slightly twisty, resonant whining echo as time progresses. It feels part hearing test, part dog-whistle, but not as harsh. The high tones are met by a throbbing pulsing tone after the midpoint, and this also sets up a kind of off-balance, off-kilter feeling in the brain. By the end of the track, my ears felt quite strange, like they had been echo-pulsed into a different phase of being. If nothing else, check out this track on Bandcamp, just for the experience.

Wake Up is another track that tapped into my horror fan-ship. For me, this one had Freddy Kruger written all over it. Being called Wake Up probably played a role too! It begins with a pulsing high-pressure shimmer that instantly brought Mr Kruger’s boiler room to mind. A short time into the track, a bell-like tone holds a sustained chime; the effect tapping into the 80’s horror film synth part of my brain. Things slowly grow more ominous until the end of the track is reached. A track with a simple charm for a horror fanatic.

I'll end my review by talking a little about Suspiria (feat. Corpoparassita), one of the darkest tracks on the album. It starts with low creaking echoes and a roaming, pulsing low drone. There are judders and strange echoes, and a sense of pregnant expectation. Some of the judders almost seem like creatures exhaling in a dark underground space, waiting and biding their time before they flood into the daylight world and shred everything they find there. This is a creepy, dark ambient horror soundscape, and it was a great place to visit.

Solaris is a dark collection of ambient and synth-based tracks, one that, for this listener at least, takes you on a tour of horror nostalgia alongside fresh terrors. I really liked the idea of a mysterious Telegram channel and how the tracks related to sinister cold cases, and it really helped to wrangle the variety of feelings evoked by the sometimes quite different moods each track embodies. As I said in my opening paragraph, I felt a sense of warmth that ran through many of the soundscapes, a fuzzy “look at this” feeling that was no doubt heightened by the cold harshness that creeps into the tracks at other times. I like horror films, books etc. that depict terrible and scary things that happen in the daytime, partly because it shows that evil doesn’t just come out at night, which makes it all the more dangerous. Solaris, for me, is horror by daylight, and that’s great!

Visit the Solaris page on Bandcamp for more information. You can also visit Sasha Darko's own website here.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Solaris

Album Artist: Sasha Darko

Released: 30 August 2021

Wednesday 16 November 2022

My Easy Christmas Cracker Whittling Project

I wanted to whittle something festive so I came up with this Christmas cracker design. It only needs easy cuts and takes around 20-30 mins once you get into the swing of things.

Saturday 12 November 2022

My Dark Ambient Album Deep Space Impingement is Out Now

Almost one month ago, I collected some of my own dark ambient tracks together into an album and released it on Bandcamp. It's called Deep Space Impingement and I've decided to give myself the artist name of Reality Scruncher. The album is themed around a deep space starship and its descent into weirdness and madness. The full album description is:

A starship journeys far beyond the known, delving into strange twisted distortions of the reality that birthed it. 

Presences watch it. Probe it. Toy with it. The starship can take it. The crew... not so much. 

A droning, rumbling, space-infused album, one created in the hopes of transporting the listener into vast, futile, and malignant soundscapes.

The full album is also up on YouTube and I`ll embed it below if you'd like to check it out that way. If you listen and find yourself liking it, it's currently a free download on Bandcamp. I will also paste some Bandcamp codes at the end of this post if you'd like to add it to your library in a more permanent way. 

Bandcamp codes to redeem at :