Monolake: VLSI (CD, Imbalance, October 2016)

Hooray, Monolake is back! And he’s great! Again! Last week I was pontificating (again) about The Nature Of The Techno Album. In contrast to Roman Flügel’s, this is definitely a record which goes deep rather than broad, sticking to one style and refining and exploring and inhabiting it. Well, I suppose you could argue that there are two styles here, the big, spacious beatless electronica thing and the skittering and glitched up techno thing, but they definitely feel like two sides of the same coin… or perhaps (pontificating again) two different ways of realizing the same idea. Obvious references are Raster-Noton and Plastikman (which I now see are the two references I made about Silence and Ghosts, so at least I’m consistently predictable). They’re equal partners here, too, the beat-free numbers fully developed tracks rather than just acting as an amuse-bouche before the proper-techno main-course. This focussed approach is, of course, a high-risk one: if you’re not absolutely killing it then people are going to get bored. Fortunately, Robert Henke is a cast-iron genius at this stuff and he’s on top top form here. The beat programming, the sound design, the sequencing, the melodies, the pacing, everything is just sublimely well-executed. I mean, sure, the tracks do sort of blend into each other a little bit, but who cares when they sound this good? It finishes with an absolute pair of crackers, too: Nmos is one of the most instantly satisfying tracks here, that skittering beat accompanied by big stabs of a really pleasing synth noise and snatches or distorted vocal sample; Glypnir is a stately, ominous, architectural closing statement; between them, they brilliantly sum up what this brilliant album is about.

(Closing aside: excited as I am to hear Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s soundtrack for Blade Runner 2049, I can’t help thinking that Henke would have been absolutely brilliant for it.)

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.

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