f there’s one thing you can fault Brad Laner for, it’s that maybe he’s just too willing to not let himself get pigeonholed by music critics. Sure, on the surface, Laner is an IDM musician that records on both Planet Mu and Tigerbeat6. But if you listen to any of his albums, you’ll soon find yourself wondering whether it’s the same person from one song to another. Instead of distilling his sound down to an inspired DSP hip hop mash up ala Kid606 or a minimal dub aesthetic ala Pole, Brad Laner mixes these elements and a host of others on his releases.
This is especially true on his first release for Planet Mu, Slow Food. The album starts with “A”, a short introductory track that utilizes panning to interesting effect. It, however, at one minute is one dimensional and only leaves the listener wanting more. The promise of more is fulfilled on “Un Polvo”, which is one of the standouts on the disc. A simple piano melody plays throughout, overriding a simplistic drumbeat and a beautifully constructed guitar counterpoint. It is, perhaps, the simplicity and the accessibility of the song, which allows it to sear into the brain after the initial listen. This is followed up by “Yresbo”, which is also an interesting track. A dubby bassline echoes beneath the drum pattern which floats between the left and right sides of the stereo. A simple melodic line, mixed with the bassline, anchor the middle of the composition and complement the complexity of the drum patterns permutations.
It is at this point, however, that the album takes a downturn into the mediocre. With the exception of “Watch Yrself”, the disc’s remaining tracks tend towards the combination of somewhat accessible rhythms and melodies and the occasional noise interlude. The fact that most of these tracks use completely different sounds, few of which are very memorable or fascinating, contributes to the lack of unity of the album.
This lack of unity lends the album to having a few memorable songs that stick in the listener’s head, while many of the other tracks are eminently forgettable. It seems that, rather than a cohesive statement, Laner has presented a collection of songs done at approximately the same time. While there is certainly nothing wrong with this mode of constructing an album, it makes it harder for the listener to grab onto any sort of continuity.
It is obvious that Brad Laner is a talented individual. Many of the tracks on Slow Food reflect a mastery of software, melody, and harmony. It is perhaps the fact that Laner is a jack of all trades and a master of none, that makes Slow Food, as a whole, an inessential release.