ASC: Imagine The Future
Samurai Red Seal

In what could be construed as a challenge or even provocation to the listener, James Clements opens his twelfth ASC album Imagine The Future with a twelve-minute setting, almost as if he's saying “Make your choice: you're with me or you're not.” A few words about Clements might help bring things into focus before we turn our attention to the album itself. Growing up in the UK, he absorbed the sounds of Motown, techno, and the UK hardcore scene before graduating to DJing, music production, and the creation of the Covert Operations label (2000-2009). Two turning points occurred in 2010: the release of the acclaimed long-player Nothing is Certain on Instra:mental's popular NonPlus+ label and the founding of the deep electronic music label Auxiliary.

As one advances through the twelve tracks of Imagine The Future, it becomes ever harder to imagine that Clements' one-time focus was ‘intelligent drum'n'bass,' considering how stylistically removed the recording is from the genre. Instead, the release inhabits a spacey realm that's got as much in common with sci-fi-influenced ambient soundsculpting as anything else. It's the second ASC album to appear on Samurai Red Seal, but its deep electronic qualities suggest it could just as easily have appeared on Auxiliary.

That Imagine The Future locates itself in a realm far above the earth is made evident from the album's outset when “Sunspots (Events # 1 - 3)” undertakes an exploration into the upper spheres where stars of immense magnitude sparkle and reverberations emanating from distant galaxies rumble. While it might often be epic in reach and grandiose in scope, Clements' ASC material is hardly lacking in rhythmic heft. In contrast to that opening setting, “Bell Curve” receives its muscular thrust from a motorik pulse that complements its dark moodscaping details and alien-techno soundworld. With its insistent beat pattern smeared in vinyl crackle and black haze, “Cosm” oozes a similarly dystopic vibe, and the track, one of the album's strongest, reaches ever-higher levels of drama over the course of its six-minute trip. Elsewhere, sweeping ambient washes flood the title track, whilst a monotone voice robotically intones the title over and over.

Occasional hints of Clements' origins surface here and there in the tunes' rhythm structures (see “Axis Shift”), suggesting that drum'n'bass still forms some deeply buried part of his DNA. While Imagine The Future is a long album and, at seventy-two minutes, maybe too long for some listeners' tastes, it also evidences no discernible lapses in quality, and longstanding ASC listeners will, in all likelihood, find the collection an easy one to embrace.

April 2015