’m sick today. It feels like my brain has swollen to the point of actually causing my skull to buckle slightly. Still, there’s no excuse for not doing reviews for Stylus, even if I did skip class and all other avoidable activities today. I’ll just pop this disc in…
Sweet monkey Jesus! What is this racket? It sounds like ‘Ventolin’, only with, y’know, less subtlety. Oh, this is not the time to hear this. What’s it called? ’46 Tops’? Are they slowly drilling a hole in my forehead? No? I’d normally really like this sort of thing, but man… at least that sound goes away halfway through. Oh shit! It’s back! Do you hate me, Minotaur Shock?
Ah this is more like it. ‘Stack On Rat’. Kinda soothing. Groovy bassline, too. The weirdly twinkling part in the background is kind of like Boards Of Canada, but the track never gets boring. This I could put up with for a while.
Aww, that’s a nice keyboard part. You know, one of those ones that sounds all wistful and melancholy, restrained and slightly bell-like. Too bad several angry pixies are punching buttons on drum machines over top of it. Actually, the two go together fairly well, even if the title of ‘Don’t Be A Slave To No Computer’ is a bit too self-consciously “ironic” for my liking. Oh man, he did that thing where the drums slow down like they’ve just taken heroin. I love that trick. Now it’s grooving. The whole track is a bit unfocused, but it’s still pretty cool. Wait, now there are voices coming in. Ah, that’s where the title comes from.
‘Let Me Out’ sounds like someone banging on a door, muffled beneath softly wheezing synths. I imagine if you listened closely enough you could probably make out someone saying “let me out”, that seems like the sort of thing this guy would do. It’s interesting, this album… he certainly takes a far amount of inspiration from the usual suspects (Aphex, the aforementioned Boards, et al), but this guy… let’s see, David Edwards from Bristol, he seems able to put together this stuff in enough of a different way that the similarities are more in what sounds he’s using that how he’s using them.
Take ‘The Downs’, for example; sure it’s got the standard music box tinkle and fuzzy pad, but Edwards weaves them together so that the effect is neither pastoral nor grimy, just sort of uh… anyone got another synonym for groovy? The thesaurus on this thing sucks.
Even the nine-minute long ‘Albert Park Music’, which is pretty ambient (and also 'pretty, ambient', hur hur), gets a rolling beat matched up against a brittle piano figure to make beautiful, head-nodding music with. It’s tricky evaluating this sort of music, as two different artists can do things that on the surface are very similar, and one will work and one won’t. Why? It’s kind of hard, for me at least, to quantify; one guy had better loops? They fit together better? One of them just got lucky? It’s hard to tell, but it’s not hard to see when something works or not. It just feels right. Most of Rinse works.
Even when ‘Albert Park Music’ transmutes into filmic drums and muted horn sustain, it still works. And even when it segues into the sweet acoustic strum and hard beats of ‘Motoring Britain’, it still works. Of course, in my current state I appreciate the former a bit more, but the opening bit of ‘Motoring Britain’ is probably the best thing here (if you’re not nursing a head filled with pain and mucus).
The man has a dab hand with a middle eight, as well; many of the tracks here have a completely unrelated idea pop and take over half way through, only to have the main theme come back and then the two interweave. It’s a pretty common trick in electronic music, but too many artists don’t pull it off; the middle just sort of sits there like a dead fish. Not here.
But it’s not all great. I mean, ‘Avon Ranger’ is a perfectly good track. But the discs been going on for a while, and I’d like to lay down. Could you turn down the drums, man? That’s a really nice keyboard sound you’ve got going there, and it’d be pretty soothing if you didn’t have the breakbeats. I mean, they’re cool and all, and you do them well, but do you have to have the harsh percussion on every track? ‘Albert Park Music’ is one of the best tracks here, and it’d be nice to see other tracks in the same vein. And not just because of my massive headache.
So of course ‘Repertor’ (is that a joke? If so, can you explain it to me?) starts of with just the beats. And they don’t stop. Of course. But ‘Rockpoolin’’ is more like it. It’s got a beat, but not so harsh. Wow, it’s actually really beautiful. It’s got that natural vibe to it, which is kind of silly to say, since it’s probably entirely digital, but it could definitely soundtrack a good day out in the woods.
And finally, at last, we get to the last track and sole vocal track: ‘Lady Came From Baltic Wharf’. Not bad. The vocalist is mildly Billie Holliday-esque. It’s soothing. Very soothing. I think I’ll go take some drugs and pass out.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-03-11