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.

Brood Ma: Daze (LP, Tri Angle, February 2016)

I have to admit, this record frustrates me at times, as it doesn’t seem to be making the most of the producer’s obvious talents. But there are enough good bits here to make this a keeper. Presented as 13 tracks but effectively a 27 minute continuous mix, it manages to pull in grime, techno, industrial, noise, electronica, and sound effects — plus a bunch more things, probably, and that’s just in the first couple of minutes. The downside of the scattergun approach is that, for the first third or so of its running time, it mostly sounds unfocused, like a kid excited to show you all their toys and not really letting you see anything properly before jumping onto the next thing. It’s about track 7, Molten Brownian Motion, before things start making sense for me: at 2m58s it’s the second longest track here, and manages to finally lock into a groove — and one of an impressively pummelling intensity. For me, the wait is worth it: the next seven or eight minutes are a real visceral thrill. Things do start to drift again near the end, but then the final track, the 5-minute (!) long Nrg Jynx (Daze End Version) is a big snarling monster of bassy synths, machine-gun beats, and a stonking industrial howling and clattering, and all is forgiven.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Electronic.