Emotional Joystick
Bellicose Pacific
Zod
2004
D+



bellicose Pacific is two short and furious works, released originally as EPs in 2003, combined into one LP that is ultimately sunk by its adherence to the genre in which it so clearly revels. The genre in question is the much maligned drill ‘n bass, which since its creative peak in the mid to late 1990s has found itself with few adherents outside of releases produced on labels run by its greatest innovators: Rephlex and Planet Mu. Emotional Joystick trades in the landscapes already cleared out by these two musicians, with additional debts paid to artists such as Squarepusher and Venetian Snares along the way.

“Eight” starts the album out with a moody epic, revealing its melodic conceit within the first few seconds of the piece—riding this same loop for the entirety of the song’s length. It’s a simple composition, attended to, at first, by a plodding beat and then the requisite flaying of Jungle’s wild rhythmic patterns. As is the custom with drill ‘n bass, the loops are chopped even further and more quickly into cartoon versions of the rolling loops of its sister genre. Replaced, however, is the bass which so often provides a clue to the underlying meaning or feeling of a song. Instead, the melodic element here is a MIDI-infused video game soundtrack that might play once the hero has finally rescued the Princess from the final obstacle. As it is with these games, however, there are always sequels. And they’re, invariably, worse with few exceptions.

The exceptions—or, the tracks that rise above the familiar conceits of the drill ‘n bass/gabber mix of the proceedings—are brief, but easily heard as greater than the fluff that surrounds them. “HollowSqure”, for example, is distorted enough in its melodic content and more unpredictable than its predecessor, “Majik Johnson”, adding what seems like an incongruous synthetic orchestra to its main theme, rendering itself a tad weirder than anything else on the disc. The intentional devolution of the tracks’ drums and its rectification is one of the few moments of transcendence that the album has to offer. Additionally, the untitled hidden track is an interesting piece of standard drill ‘n bass, perhaps best approximating the best portions of gabber and the melodicisms of Lunatic Harness-era Mike Paradinas.

Unfortunately, two tracks, one not even listed in the liner notes, does not an album make. It seems that Emotional Joystick, with Bellicose Pacific has mastered the lower rungs of the ladder of manic drum programming and semi-memorable melodies. With his future releases, one can only hope that he skips a few rungs or perhaps finds an entirely new ladder, as it seems that these summits have already been scaled and far better.
Reviewed by: Todd Burns
Reviewed on: 2004-03-26
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