Thursday, October 2, 2008

Installment 18

CITY RAIN Light Turned On (Boltfish)
OBFUSC Cities of Cedar (Boltfish)
Z-ARC Accumulative Effect (Boltfish)

Better to burn out than to fade away…maybe IDM, as a strict, now probably passé, genre rubric, adopted said platitude years ago, but the enterprising label Boltfish ain’t having none of it. As far as they’re concerned, the propagation of “organic electronica” (Boltfish’s own descriptor) is a categorical imperative. At least from a British standpoint, there’s few labels left out of a once mighty Anglo collective (e.g., Neo Ouija and Expanding’s dormancy, though both poised for resurrection; others such as Focus/Defocus and New Electronica long dead and buried), which seems to smack of marketplace logistics rather than consumer indifference. Certainly on evidence here, these three recent Boltfish outings are testament to a continuing evolution of rhythmic laptop-generated electronica doing its best to bypass genre shoehorning or succumbing to any of its software manipulator’s compositional mouse-traps.

It might be too early to deem Philadelphian Ben Runyan one of our “expert knob twiddlers” (though the photo gracing his artist page on the Boltfish site shows him enthusiastically doing just that), but his full-length entrance onto the world stage as City Rain is a step in the right direction. Apparently a personal memento/reconciliation writ sonically, I’m dubious that young Runyan’s amassed the requisite life experience(s) that should imbue Light Turned On with the gravitas he feels it deserves—such speculation aside, however, this is a superb debut of charmed electronica. Sharply-honed and texturally inventive, Light Turned On does beckon numerous ghosts from rusting machines; were the tracks not so imagistically forged, the dreaded “indietronica” virus infecting a number of them (mostly by a few opportunistic guitar/piano cells) might well have tragically metastasized. Thankfully, Runyan treats such pseudo-Boards of Canada-isms as earnest dogma rather than smug affectation. Hence, the poignant digital Americana (replete with distant thunderswells and Budd-ing keys) of “Back on Track” remains on solid footing courtesy of humid, twilight atmospherics and a snappy laptop rhythm that buttresses the Fahey-esque fingerpicking throughout. More importantly, Runyan’s wise to let his leftfield tendencies rule the day: foregone 90s blip-techno arms the cleverly-titled “Face for Books”; “Well You Said” and “Click Clack” are exercises in adolescent nostalgia subsumed by glitch profundity; the fetching “Chasing Leaves” reads like a digital etch-a-sketch, balancing its rhythmic tempo between dribbling high-frequencies, cricket chatter, and sounds that quiver like charged jello. As warm urban precipitation, Light Turned On deftly illuminates the IDioM, shaped to make your life easier.

Metropolises of a similar sort emerge on Obfusc’s sophomore effort Cities of Cedar, and judging from Brooklyner Joseph Burke, the view outside his window must be nothing short of postcard paradise. He makes no bones about the clarity of his vision; unlike his chosen moniker, the music doesn’t so much bewilder as bewitch. Obfusc bridge gaps between vaseline-smeared beat poetics and countryside ambient, a rural, elegiac, backwoods synthtopia made that much more incongruous by Burke’s studio locale. He does utilize various samples and observations a la Bill Nelson’s orchestras arcana, making due with similar methods de appliqué: “Delayed Sunshine Reaction” waxes like some leftover 60s bit of radiophonic psychedelia, guitarsurge going headfirst against tictac snares and whisper-pitch electronics. “Close Your Eyes and Daydream” is techno lite for the hacker generation, dewy, gauzy, indistinct but patently gorgeous for it, Burke smartly incorporating “real” sampled drums and cymbals to anchor the oozing, effervescent electronic bubblebath. Of course, those of more discerning opinions will be quick to recognize such noises across the Board (as in Canada), but such narrowmindedness would negate the wonderful miasma of a track like “Mood Gradient,” whose little fluffy clouds, buffeted by windy drum machine dada, channel Cluster into the finest pop-art soul balm. The aforementioned City Rain, plus Milieu, Phasen, Electric West, and Ova Looven, remake some of the works here in their own image, proffering a handy addendum to the proceedings; if anything, their inability to wholly transform, neé obfuscate, the central melodic characters whipped up by their colleague says much about Burke’s gift of electronic gab.

Z-Arc remembers the heyday of nascent 90s “electronic listening music” (and 80s EBM industrialisms, too), letting it rip to pretty devastating Accumulative Effect. However lest you figure this mental machine music is all bump and grindhouse, think again: Z-Arc’s far too savvy a programmer to simply leave his sequencers on overpilot and head for the hills. The level of intelligence at work here—deciding on the appropriate direction of the soundstream, carefully considering where to edit and/or delete—enjoins Z-Arc’s creative common ground, in effect, shoring up the ‘I’ in IDM. The cover’s primary colors and exactitude of shape mirror the music well—ditto the pointed sci-fi/futurist track titles. One imagines electrons catapulting off the right angles of “Dihedral,” beats sparkling in prismatic glare. Or the fractal bleep of “40 Microns,” shapeshifting atmospherics barking like a mad Black Dog. Or the LED backlight charisma of “Refracted”, Z-Arc sporting an impish Cheshire grin as he somehow merges the percolating gain of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark with Kirk DeGiorgio’s slo-mo 303 brushstrokes and silvery envelopes. If Klaus Schulze were reincarnated as a malcontent armed to the teeth with latté, laptop, and Cubase, he’d be bending the light fantastic like Z-Arc. Fast fashion Accumulative Effect isn’t, but the sentiment’s all the same: just can’t get enough. DARREN

CELER Discourses of the Withered (Infraction)
CELER The Everything and the Nothing (Infraction)

Barber, Chopin, Wagner, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Schoenberg, Varese, Cage, Stockhausen, Reich, Hermann, Delerue, Pärt, Feldman, Dockstader, Baumann/Froese, Vangelis, Bryars, Eno, Budd, Spybey, Köner, Potter, Coleclough, Voigt. This recital of influences with its broad sweep of classical through modernist, soundtrack and post-industrial, early experimentalist pioneers to sons of pioneers, serves both to signal Celer’s musical sensibilities and to situate them in relation to a certain lineage. Will Long and Dani Baquet-Long, Celer curators and compilers of this list (selectively imported here), are string-driven texturalists whose extensive recent back catalogue of self-released works testifies to extensive audio-inquiries at the intersection between organic instrumentation and digital manipulation, between consonance/dissonance and pitched/unpitched sound clines, between the outer of the environment and the inner of the studio.

Celer music consciously operates within a narrow dynamic, preferring to sprawl languorously within its chosen ambit of textural transport to poring over structure’s strictures. Their privileging of sound colour comes with a rigorous working methodology: instruments—mainly cello, viola, violin—are first recorded to create source sounds to be further blended with field recordings and other variant timbres. These are spliced and re-assembled to make loops which are in turn sampled, layered and processed. Something of an artisan approach in the age of Any Sound You Want In A Plug-in, this seemingly laborious process has the great merit of endowing their sonorities with depth and richness; they swim with particulate detail, like a mini-orchestra dissolved in a light digital solution. So what you get is variations on a kind of slow-core micro-symphonics, gauzy motifs emerging—oceanic, aetherial, chthonic—swelling then relenting to liminal levels. The whole comes wrapped in enigmatic titlings, micro-stories laden with recondite images for unravelling by the reader-listener, text-supplements to audio-documents, cryptic signs to possible worlds, glimpsed darkly through the passages of these driftworks.

Thematically, keynote Celer release, Discourses of the Withered, seems to treat of transcendence, through the evocation of a semi-sacral space. One hesitates to call it “spiritual” for fear of scaring off those without a mission, but the programme is driven by a distillation of Dani’s recent experience of an Indian sojourn. The music, anyway, is independently suggestive enough to float free of author-driven signifieds. Getting down to specifics, “This Thinking Globe Exploding” opens in a characteristic ebb-flow dynamic of surges, based around a consonant 4-chord progression with an undertow that tugs toward dissonance without ending in descent. A similar motion underlies “The Carved God Is Gone, Waking above the Pileus Clouds”, though with field recording infusions and a darker wooze of billowing spirals around it. Within the recursive build-up and fall-back movements of these pieces come subtle microvariations in tidal timbre. On “Stargazing Lily Lacks the Flower” vari-pitched string tones well up, edged with echo-haloes, into slow-motion near-crescendos. Undercurrents in dark water occasionally suggest themselves beneath the serene surface, inky smears lining silver clouds. So let the customary referential roll-call of post-classical ambienteers be read – the litany of Gas and Basinski, Stars of the Lid and Eluvium, Deaf Center and Marsen Jules, et al., but only so co-ordinates may be drawn for a likely audience ambit, with the rider that these not be read too literally as an index of sound. A piece such as “The Separation Of the Two-Phased Apple Blossoms” has become unmoored from such referents, reaching into a different harmonic drone canon, aligned more, albeit obliquely, with the slow shutter speed imagism of fellow-Infraction-ite Adam Pacione’s Stills to Motion, the heliotropics of Andrew Deutsch’s The Sun, and far-off refractions of some of Tim Hecker’s Mirages. And the closing “Delaying the Entropy, in Emptiness, Forms are Born” erects a welter of sonorous sustain into an edifice that stands somewhere facing away from the last vestiges of the late Western spacemusic of the U.S. toward the reworked drone-mines of the Northern European underground, and newer tesselations by Paul Bradley and Keith Berry.

Companion release, The Everything and The Nothing, is composed of outtakes from DotW, and it is to Infraction’s credit that these have not been allowed to wither, forgotten on the editing room floor, or squeezed onto a bonus mini-disc, but given full and equal release status. Featuring one long track in suite form, parts of “The Everything and the Nothing (in 13 parts)” are discretely identifiable, though its long meditative motifs, placed in suspension and infinitely revolved, tend to bleed into each other. Celer dwell on a certain progression, repeating it insistently, scrutinising it, altering its surrounding air to let it breathe differently. Otiose, in a sense, to wonder about whereabouts, instead wander within the undulant contours of its trance-inducing arcs, moving with its contractions and expansions, following with ears peeled those diaphanous plumes as they outfold, time-lapsed, in echo-flecked cloud-splendour, by turns luminous, then darkening at the edges. Superficially, the same deep-breathing turgescent sequences are spooled out in obsessive recursion, but the devil is in the micro-variative detail, dressing up the dirge into a mesmerizing immersion zone in which to darkly luxuriate. Celer’s is a music that induces a strange, but strangely pleasing, tension - so apart, at times hermetic, at times so tremulously precious, yet undeniably endowed with a sense of arcane seductivity.

A quite different beast is Mesoscaphe, on which Celer commune with audio-visualist Mathieu Ruhlmann, Mystery Sea-man turned Spekk-ulator. Taking as their programme the voyage of a submarine vessel which explored the currents of the Gulf Stream back in the moon-landing mists of 1969, Celer’s instruments and electronic treatments consort with Ruhlmann’s field recordings of the Ben Franklin and attendant environments for a distance documentation of the event. The methodologies of these sound artists are differing but symbiotic, the Canadian trafficking largely in captured audio/sound photography. Celer’s instinctively more musical approach sees them mediating to reform and synch materials in mimesis of oceanic and underwater movement. Despite this, the three lengthy pieces are characterised by atonal isolationist inclinations and low depth pressure, denying the stringy mellifluities of their Infraction soundings. Mesoscaphe is more disquieting, their pans and swells, crests and subsides working with associated titlings to draw sound-story linkages. These are dictated more by Ruhlmann’s murky materials, contaminated with submarine ambience, sonorities gruzzy and anharmonic, teeming with corroded resonances below the spume, the whole evoking a sense of enclosure within expanse. For all Celer’s inclination to uplift and eschewal of dark ambient cliché, the subnavigations here disentombed seem to tell of buried dreams and troubled resting places. ALAN /

MATT BORGHI Huronic Minor (Hypnos Secret Sounds)
ELUDER The Most Beautiful Blue (Infraction)
MILIEU A Warm Wooden Hollow (Infraction)
PARKS Umber (Infraction)
MOVE D / B. BRUNN Songs from the Beehive (Smallville)
NICOLA RATTI From the Desert Came Saltwater (Anticipate)
2562 Aerial (Tectonic)

In Between Words continues Christopher Bissonnette’s digital pokery into orchestral nooks and spatial crannies, instituted on his 2005 Kranky coming-out, Periphery. That recording’s glassine pool of diaphanous drift and seriously altered neo-classical states constituted an update of Kranky’s space-drone tradition, fusing it with some of the spirit of electronica, most closely aligned with the organic-simulating pop-microsound of 12k. The follow-up finds Bissonnette continuing and extending, finding an elegant way of linking top and tail of Kranky’s considerable body of work, from the organic spatialisms of its Labradford and SotL beginnings in the 90s to the late-period digitised drone-fests of Keith Fullerton Whitman and Tim Hecker. In Between Words comes out a few shades darker and deeper-grained than Periphery, homing in seemingly, with an eye to allusive title, on interstices between pitched sounds. “Provenance” opens with smooth drones coming undone into a polished glitch-fuzz, a crepitus of strings-in-remotion leaking out of a vast orchestral hum. All timbre, melody sublimated, then snaking forth distended into electric spirals of neo-Orientalist intervals, it thrums with something strange this way coming. “A Touch of Heartbreak”, on the other hand, stretches out a remote choir beyond recognition till it sits like a heat haze over the sound plains, at first quietly teeming with particulate brownian motion, before shifting gradually across a series of subtle timbral movements before its density settles into pointillist ethereal white-out. Quite stunning. Similarly, “Orffyreus Wheel” plays with what seems like a trapped melodic fragment, obscuring its loopy articulations through a semi-obliterative digi-raincloud, passing it through various filters which abrade its textures with soft noise and festoon it with static streamers. Already compelling enough, the set gets stellar with “The Colonnade”, all buzzing Dronus Maximus, before collapsing into strange effacements; fragments of pianistics seep up through the residues lingering in folds and rhizomes. Ending comes in the gushing geyser of microsonic orchestrality that is “Jour et Nuit”, the most beautiful swathes of stringy crepuscularity never smeared by Wolfgang Voigt. But this is no Teutonic King’s Forest or Magic Mountain, rather a complex liquid distillate of Canadian concrete, an enthralling soundtrack to a hypnagogue cityscape. ALAN

Matt Borghi’s low profile atmospherics have been under most radars for some time. Despite this, a small loyal following and a limiting of editions that errs on the side of safety means that many releases have gone out of print. Fortunately for those not versed in Borghese, Hypnos have now provided an induction session, re-issuing a selection of them on their Secret Sounds sublabel, Huronic Minor being the first. Inspired by a great storm in 1913 in the Great Lakes region (Borghi is a Michigan man), in which The Huronic ran aground, the resulting piece of sonic impressionism is no affair of harsh noise representing the violence of elemental forces, but rather a collection of downcast ambient-space poetics evoking emotional suspension. This is a journey into the tense uncertainties of before and the chilled numbness of afterward with a prediminant motion of slow drift, stretching out slowly, expanding without moving forward, breathing, swelling, relenting. It recalls other Borghi works such as The Phantom Light in its blend of ambient’s textural minimalism and space music’s thematic motifs. Like Slo.bor Media sidekick Jason Sloan and one-time collaborator Aidan Baker, Borghi is endowed with an ability to meld shadow-dwelling guitar and delicate synth effusions into suggestive drone-shapes, sometimes with a discreet neo-industrial edge (delicately droning, not Troum-atic). “Gray Dawn Illumination” travels furthest away from Hypnos’s customary ambit of ambient into shipwrecked Mystery Sea zones pursued by Vidna Obmana’s ghost. Equally spectral is “Point aux Barques”, which maps out a forlorn vista in which movements are contaminated by the residue of previous surges leaving a caché of dissonance. It’s steeped in the remote devastation and soul-void of disaster aftermath, pervaded by a hollow sense of something lost. Though Huronic Minor stays on the still and lulling side, subtle shifts in tone and mood are revealed, from poignant-placid (“Leaving the Gates of the Open Harbor”) to wistful-sombre (“November's Peculiar Calm”) and on to the uneasy haunting (“Point Aux Barques”) and renewal dawning of “Red Sky Morning”. ALAN

Look it up and etymology will give you a clue [elude - avoid or escape by dexterity (vb.)], proposing Eluder [-lud-/-lus-] as a dextrous escapist. Persuasive, since, transposed to musicianly context, the careful choreography of retreat and remotion is what Patrick Benolkin is about. So you won’t be surprised when walls within and without come down, dissolved by the drift inside The Most Beautiful Blue. The spectral soundfields of grey dimly charted by (free netlabel) debut Warm Warning’s doleful drones and wan washes are opened up into miles-deep inner-zones, as under Infraction’s curation true textural colours come through. Of the label’s fellow-drifters, Eluder’s discreet field work and timbral questing place him closest to the “grex” methodologies of Adam Pacione, or perhaps a more abstract carpenter in an annexe to the sawdust and smoke-rooms frequented by Milieu. But Eluder music is characterised not by the sound of the bucolic or sylvan, or even the underground, but rather the submarine. From the very start, with opener “Autumn Hips”, it’s all indigo pads in plumes of static spray, from the murky harmony in ultramarine of “Dusk Invites the Dark” to the particulate shimmer of “Brand New Eyes”, all sluiced in a sprinkler of DATmospheres. Other exhibits include “Milemarker”, which manoeuvres a stratum of translucent tones over a patina of gruzz, fizz and nocturnal nature-hum, making like Modell/Mantra mixing up the ‘binaural processing’ medicine. And “Via Starlight” too, which sees the artist drawing euphonic vapour trails out over the horizon into a piece of celestial geometry, playing both astral draughtsman and Gas-man. A final rhapsody in eponymous hue comes in a two-move gambit: “Sea Swallows”, stretching grainy tone trails richly bristling with decay-drops over a smouldering core, seguing to the closing lowlight paean voiced in reverberant tonal exhalations from the deep, the Big, The Most Beautiful Blue. In sum, the will-to-escape finds an effective scenographer in Eluder, who offers here a sonic solution in which thoughts, mirroring the music’s mood movements, may dissolve, float free, and finally submerge, without fear of being taken down. ALAN

Infraction has over the last few years quietly come to occupy a position as one of our most accomplished ambient labels. An early predilection for the outer limits of experimental and eclectic (Zammuto, Colin Potter, Beequeen, Andrew Liles) has gradually shifted towards differently replenished forms of harmonically-inflected ambient soundscapery (Beautumn, Kiln, Milieu). Parks may be seen as an addition to the canon. Originally conceived in Ambient’s Golden Years of the mid-90s, Umber’s release was blighted by minimal distribution and a label collapse. It’s now been re-arranged and re-issued by Infraction, which seems a natural home in that, like fellow-Russian Beautumn’s pair of Infraction releases (White Coffee and Northing), Igor Bystrov draws on influences ranging from Vangelis, aspects of the Kosmische and space music traditions, the FAX label circa mid-90s, and ambient labels like Hypnos circa y2k time. Umber is in fact something of a mixed bag, straying from Infraction’s more purist ambient ambit; like the shuffling locomotive beat lope at the heart of the miles-wide open-skied headnod of “The Breath Of Autumn”. Much warmth and nostalgic indulgence to be had among celestial swathes of analogue synth-string of “The Blanket”) and the lush analogue, digital, and organic communings of “The Twilight”. Infraction central wisely choose to trim the excess off the original, two of the more over-ripe old fruits excised in favour of ‘new’ track, “Spheres”, a lovely elegiac piece of minimalist tonefloat, wherein emotion lies long and longing lingers. All in all, a good spot by the Ohio crew; gristly in parts but with enough meat to merit re-heat. ALAN

On to A Warm Wooden Hollow, following up Brian Grainger’s first Milieu release on Infraction, 2005’s Beyond the Sea Lies the Stars. There he deployed loops harvested from orchestral vinyl to build a wonderfully weathered wind-tunnel suite. On AWWH, loops remain pronounced, as does the sonic bleaching, but this time self-generated melodies are threaded through, and the sound palette is populated more by pianos and organs, and the odd captured harp. Packaging is all pretty in pastoral, and slightly warped psychedelia, not mere functional decoration, but imagistic linkage with audio-contents. In the interim between BtSLtS and AWWH, a plethora of Milieu releases have issued forth, many of them familiar downtempo IDM-fodder. AWWH, however, is fished from the same gene pool as earlier ambient Milieu like Brother and Gunkajima, with synths, basses and field recordings predominating, along with traces of the lineage of guitar-scapes like Sun White Sun. A kind of Ambient Milieu compendium, then - a decent enough concept, though ultimately falling short in realisation. Aside from “Written on Driftwood” - a truly beauteous and transportive 11 minutes of genuine ‘pop ambient’ - the material tends to the episodic, lacking the resonance of either BtSLtS or the best of self-released Milieu (cf. Of The Apple). Flawed by a half-baked sketchy feel - the likes of “Pollen Cabin Poetry”, with its flaunting of that demo-tape front-room piano sound (cf. Goldmund, Library Tapes) and “The Decomposition Of Memory”, with its rustle-and-tap field-sourced motif that evokes only enervation. Relieved by “A Night Walk Clearing”, all downhome Reichian DIY-gamelan tinklings, and “Burnt Rust” and “Winter Decay”, artful textural drone pieces into which the ear feels genuinely drawn. Episodicity is not the problem with the closing “Inside the Sun”, but rather distension; at 18:15, it’s roughly 15 minutes longer than its unalluring textures merit. Compounded with a bonus 3” cd-r (ltd. to first 50 copies), Smokebuilder's Woodshop, already departed to the ranks of the obtainable-only-on-eBay-for-an-arm-and-a-leg. No loss, though, for this woody matter is eminently pruneable; three slivers of sonic depletions comprising (i) sub-Budd plonking attended by ambient room noise, (ii) a few wisps of synth counterpoint, ending in descent with (iii) a yawning longueur of no-fi background hum and tone doodle. A familiar maxim is reversed to reveal that more is, in this case, less. ALAN

Over the last decade and a half David Moufang (Move D) has been involved with so many projects in an overlapping array of sub-genres it’s been gratifyingly hard to pigeon-hole him. And his polymorphous inclination serves him increasingly well. Songs from the Beehive sees him draw on his past to spool out various permutations of techno, house, and ambient, not to mention a sneaky looping take on drone and sideways-on allusions to jazz. Sidekick Benjamin Brunn has already shown himself (on the two’s first collab on Bine, Let’s Call it a Day) to be a perfect foil for D’s moves, facilitating him in expressing himself, bringing out more, say, than is evidenced on numerous, better-known, and still ongoing Fax file exchanges with Pete Namlook. Most of these tracks sprawl beyond the 10-minute mark, starting off with static and slack clicks before accruing momentum and winding out into fully-fledged expression. Take the opening “Love the One You're With”, which gradually unfolds from a hazy suspension of samples and audio-babble to take on a discreetly jacking deep techno habit, cycling engrossingly from one axis-shifting breakdown to the next, each new section taking on new sonic passengers, as the whole opens up micro-layers full of thrumming vibrations. Then “Velvet Paws” is all over you, soft keys washed in ice-cool liquids taking on multifunctional rhythmic, textural and melodic roles. After this deep-diving dual opening gambit, the recent 12” single choice, “Honey”, strikes as almost throwaway—a pop at the same target as the Isolée of Lost, and a more obvious groove-centric track that is just a little too in love with the admittedly winsome play of its overweaning squelch ’n’ burp acid-inflected synth riff. There is much more to follow, though, and the appealing ebb and flow of Moufang and Brunn’s choreographing ensures constant refresh, never afraid to withhold those obvious "whump whump" kick ’n’ click pleasures, to allow the surrounding air to sing with remote drones and float-tones. This is in fact a recording which succeeds more than just about anything tagged "ambient techno" (how quaint now) in melding the Earth of repetitive beats with the Air of ambient drift and drone. ALAN

Nicola Ratti seems lodged in a bit of a half-world on From the Desert Came Saltwater. His blurb-scribe’s Big Idea is to tag it “Subtractive Rock”, and hope this cryptic clue will pique rather than puzzle. Once you hear it, though, you’ll get the subtractive drift in context, though the rock part seems largely otiose (unless the "rock" itself is understood as being subtracted). Like a sentence with nouns and verbs intact but adjectives and adverbs removed, the grammar of this music is deliberately impoverished, leaving here a skeletal strum, there a spidery scratch of guitar to keep the homefire minimally poked, if not stoked; far from burning, anyway. Peripheral hiss, close-miked micro-patter and sub-vocals play around the edges, suggestive of a sort of substance which is ultimately errant. Yep, that’s ‘subtractive’. Compared with the majority of contemporary electro-acoustic works, From the Desert... is of a more naturalistic organic bent in terms of its treatments, eschewing any undue fragmentation and processing in favour of accentuating inherent characteristics of the instruments’ sounding spectrum. The prevailing feeling of this collection, though, is one of erasure, or perhaps deferral, with tensions created and expectations denied or placed on hold, Ratti toying around the edges of form. Guitar figures prominently, the lightly amplified instrument manhandled gently into rapid passes and soft attacks. Underneath a plain somewhat scrappy surface lies a microworld of furtive rummagings and ruminations, mumbled vocalizing, almost-glitches, bass dunks, vague suspensions of gestural atmospherics, occasionally enlivened by tonal bursts before rapid return to zero. Hard, though, to drink quenchingly of the saltwater from this desert of sound, possessed though it is of a certain spartan audio-vision. Its dryness of articulation may yet appeal to the more ascetic of electro-acoustic enthusiasts, but ultimately it is all gesture and tease, a bloodless strip show of shadow puppets. ALAN

The leap from 12" to full-length is large for the club-sprung producer-DJ. Dutch Dub-stepper, Dave Huisman, throws his hat into the ring following recent extended outings from the likes of Burial, Benga, Scuba, Geiom, and Pinch. Aerial, his debut album as 2562 (his postcode in The Hague), comes after a trail of 12”s touted in all the right bass-places. 2562 has been aligned with the likes of Peverelist and Shackleton, practitioners who sneak around at the peripheries of dubstep, making looting forays into the environs of minimal techno and the edges of experimental. The 4/4-referencing jack-thump of “Morvern” and the wibbly-wobbly bass grandstander, “Techno Dread”, suggest that Huismans is looking to mix it with the mnml-ists as much as shuffling with the 2-steppers. Opening statement, “Redux”, also alludes just as much to a post-Pole sound~scape as to a notional Bristol-London axis. Like another rising star of this inherently hybridising genre, Martyn, Huismans is from the Netherlands, and as such operates far enough beyond the UK purview to allow him to exercise a less prescribed remodelling of a range of outfits spun from threads previously exhibited on club catwalks from Bristol to Berlin. Though parts of Aerial feel like 2562 is stepping back to the roots of dub—“Moog Dub”, for example, sees a Nu-dub variant ushered in—it’s only this track and the digi-dubby “Basin Dub” that dress in these emperor’s new clothes. Four tracks from his 12” releases reappear here, and from these templates Aerial proceeds without forging much in the way of new forms, largely preferring to withhold the kickdrum-thunk of techno in favour of growling and/or wobbling floor-quake bass propulsion. More brittle and percussive and surface-skimming than the depth-plumbings of the likes of dub-techno practitioners like Deepchord and Quantec, 2562 can seem a little too much like a brittle pizza, one with a great crispy thin base but not much topping to moisten it. However, when Huismans gets it right, as on “Greyscale” and “Enforcers”, with their delay-drizzled and reverb-doused pads, scatter-shot percussives, and dub-sprays of echo-static misting the peripheries, the kinetic force is fully felt. All in all, it offers a fresh, rather than new, spin on drum ’n’ space in which bass is definitely the place. ALAN