Butane: Endless Forms
Crosstown Rebels

Berlin-based Andrew Rasse issued his first Butane full-length on his own Alphahouse imprint and now follows it with Endless Forms, a Charles Darwin-inspired sequel that's long on atmosphere but short on melody. The album begins with an ambient prelude, “This Is Your Brain on Music,” featuring the voiceover of a pontificating scientist (“What is music? Where does it come from? Why do certain sequences of sounds move us so while others make many of us uncomfortable?”) contemplating music's Darwinian aspects and brain development—a piece that's not unrelated to the album's themes of evolution and progress but ultimately of minor consequence. The first formal musical track, “His Story,” confirms that Butane's music focuses on atmosphere above all else. Over seven minutes, Rasse stokes a gently jacking techno pulse that exudes a dub quality in its abundant use of echo effects and sound exploration—all well and good, though the absence of anything melodic to grab onto renders it less effective in the long run. In “Mutation,” vaporous breaths blow across a bubbly jacking pulse but, aside from a parade of uncoiling electronic noises, that's the sum-total of melodic action on offer, and it's not enough to sustain interest for the track's nine-minute running time. Without question, Rasse is a groove-meister, as the locomotive techno rhythms that roll along serenely in “Almost Finished” and “Transmit the Music in Me” prove, and the tasty grooves that strut through “Nite Vision” and the brooding “Idle” are delicious too. But Endless Forms' atmospheric focus ultimately makes Butane's inarguably well-crafted material feel a bit too much like background music.

August 2009