Bitcrush: Of Embers

Four minutes into Of Embers' opening title track, beatific waves of electric guitars and heavy acoustic drums kick in, in a single gesture burying the ambient synthetic streams with which the piece began. Ah, yes, we're in Bitcrush territory again and how good it feels. That we are is, in fact, a tad surprising given that Mike Cadoo's previous Bitcrush opus, Epilogue in Waves, seemingly announced the end of the project, but n5MD's head clearly had a change of heart, as the latest hour-long collection—the fifth in the Bitcrush story—arrives two years later with all of the signature elements intact.

Two of the album's six tracks are in the fifteen-minute range. The rather episodic “Fray the Middle to Meet the Ends” fluctuates between restrained passages of soothing character and explosive sections of high-intensity rapture that Cadoo tears into with conviction. Following a gentle intro of piano, electronics, and strings, “Ascension” sweeps the listener up with a transporting head-nod episode but the track is hardly about unleashing power; if anything, the focus is more on shaping minimal electroacoustic sounds and field recording elements (sounds of keys and traffic) into material tailor-made to soothe the savage breast. That it's an extremely personal outlet for Cadoo is intimated by the inclusion of vocals on a number of tracks, which thankfully isn't a negative. His singing blends into the music's overall fabric seamlessly and his controlled delivery (no over-the-top histrionics here) in “Dream Unto Fathoms” and elsewhere proves appealing. The fireplace crackle one hears during the ambient passages in “The Days We Spent Within” also alludes to the intimacy Cadoo's aiming at. It's always a bit of a surprise to hear his own music be so guitar-heavy given his label's ‘emotive electronic' credo but, though the ‘live instrumentation' dimension is a key part of the Bitcrush sound, the electronica dimension is a critical component too, as evidenced by the synthetic atmospheres that haunt each setting.

April 2010