Access To Arasaka: Geosynchron
c.db.sn: … At The End Of It All
The Tympanik Audio train rolls along, apparently able to avoid the kinds of crippling economic challenges that drag other labels down—some degree of credit should presumably go to its faithful listeners for continuing to support the label's dark electronica brand. Very much in keeping with the label template, these three recent releases don't dramatically advance the associated Tympanik Audio template in any novel way so much as solidify it—which is not to suggest that they're not thoroughly credible collections in their own right.
The most claustrophobic and unrelenting of the trio is clearly Geosynchron, the concluding chapter to two earlier EP releases by Access To Arasaka (Rochester, NY producer Rob Lioy) Orbitus and Aleph. It's very much within the tradition of cerebral, micro-detailed electronica—metallic machine music that plays as if the virus-laden digital beast is gorging on its own innards or as if the music presented is the record of the imploding system's data output. Dystopic in spirit and mood, Geosynchron is pitched as the logical outcome of doomed struggle and failed retaliation—“a witnessing of the destruction of a system as viewed from the system itself,” we're told. The album's a cyberpunk vision of sprawling metropolises and ruined landscapes, with all of it brought into being with a surgical precision and cut-throat intensity. Its ice-cold heart beats for a full hour and exposes the listener to a range of moods and styles, from skittering uptempo workouts to cryptic scene-painting. Despite such contrasts, however, an oppressive sense of dread and foreboding colours the album's thirteen tracks. A seething jungle break powers “Talitha,” an otherwise prototypically epic slice of gothic moodscaping, while “BS-2X,” seeming gripped by convulsions, violently scatters shards in all directions. Some relief arrives midway through when a vocal appearance by Jamie Blacker nudges “Lysithea” into a Depeche Mode-like direction, before the brooding “Rana” plunges us back into the center of the still-smoldering cityscape and “Polaris” takes us out with three minutes of synthesizer-heavy gloom—a scenic but intense ride, all things considered.
A less harrowing undertaking by comparison is … At the End of It All by c.db.sn, Denver-based Chase Dobson's follow-up to his 2008 debut album, Into the Deep, on Elseproduct. Computer-based synthesis, programmed beats, synthetic strings, synthesizer washes, and heavily processed guitar are drawn upon as sound sources for the album's eleven settings. There's a dense textural interplay at work throughout the new recording that clearly identifies it as a Tympanik Audio release (glitch-heavy tracks such as “Artificial Intelligence” and “As If December Never Happened” and the dramatic “Certain is the Plague of Fables” bear the label's signature stamp), but there's also a surprisingly broad range of exploration that extends the album beyond a singular dimension. The collection opens strongly with “This Stillness of Hours,” an initially bone-crushing blend of dubstep wobble and bass-dropping head-nod that eventually mutates into a delicate, piano-based setting by track's end—a shift that in microcosm reflects the album's range. To his credit, Dobson focuses on melody as much as sound design, and he's not afraid to let the softer sides of his music-making show either. Nor is he opposed to having IDM elements emerge in his tracks, as evidenced by the title piece and “A Map of the Human Heart.” Hints of post-rock (“A Silent Sea”) and ambient (“Airport [Never_Land]”) seep in as well, making … At the End of It All a more diverse collection than expected.
On an even more mellow tip is Known Rebel's Hollow—and that's not a criticism, though it must be said that of the three releases reviewed, it's Hollow that's the least forward-thinking. But what recommends Hollow, the brainchild of Ibiza, Spain duo Germán Escandell and Jaime Irles (who formed Known Rebel in Barcelona in 2009 when they were students), is that it plays like the soothing antidote to the nightmares induced by Geosynchron. Imagine a laid-back mix of downtempo rhythms, IDM synthetics, and melancholy piano melodies and you're pointing in the right direction (I believe I even detected a hint of drum'n'bass sneaking into the opening “Anonymous”). Just as on the other two releases, a glitchy dimension is present, but it hardly overshadows the other aspects of the duo's melodic sound. And though warmth is not a word that applies to a great many Tympanik Audio outings, it applies in this case, and the tracks are, relatively speaking, refreshingly uncluttered. Interestingly, echoes of Telefon Tel Aviv occasionally crop up during the album (during “Herz Aeon,” for example), and that's hardly a bad thing. Sounding in certain respects like a half-speed version of Plaid, “Gathering of the Argonauts” brings Known Hollow's IDM leanings to the forefront. In fact, some of the group's brooding electronica is so heavily atmospheric it might pass for ambient were the beats stripped away, and the album is almost evenly split between originals and remixes. Mothboy and Roel Funcken (Funckarma) contribute solid makeovers to the project, while Access To Arasaka brings the trio of releases full circle by adding a suitably hard-hitting and glitch-heavy remix (of “Herz Aeon”) to the set.