Cepia: Natura Morta

Though Huntley Miller has issued EPs and a Sublight collection of originals and remixes, Atlantic Blood, under the Cepia name, the all-new Natura Morta feels like his debut full-length, even if its modest, 33-minute length characterizes it more as a mini-album. The Minneapolis producer proves himself a master of concision, with the longest track in the four-minute range, but don't be deceived: the pieces are anomalously short by electronic music standards but Miller works a wealth of fine-tuned detail and richly textured sound design into each setting. “Opening Parade,” for example, rolls out funk beats and off-beat melodic snippets that call to mind Plaid and Chiastic Slide-period Autechre but, after making its point, exits after three minutes. “Dot,” on the other hand, distorts (presumably) Miller's voice to such an extreme, it becomes a babbling stream of carousel-like garble.

It'd be a stretch to say that the eleven pieces are ‘about' anything in particular (a notion reinforced by two pieces having ‘untitled' names), even if Miller himself describes the album as an extremely personalized response to life events and circumstances circa 2005-06, when he recorded the album “in seclusion.” Cepia's music is hardly alone in being hermetically self-contained, however, and there's still lots that one can latch onto while listening the music. The album sprinkles soundscape vignettes filled with vaporous swirls, shimmering washes, and chordal streams (the shimmering overture “Braille Wounds,” “Wavebnc,” “Untitled II”) amongst the more in-depth forays into electronic beatsmithing. Tracks of this kind make the strongest impression: “Hoarse,” which layers a sparkling melody over crisp, head-nodding beats; “The Undeniable Bend,” which sweetens its hip-hop/funk groove with subtle percussive treatments and a deep synth motif; and, perhaps best of all, “Untitled,” which succeeds as a beautiful marriage of downtempo funk and melodic gleam.

It might be more than a little worrying for electronic music practitioners like Miller to see labels like Merck, Sublight, and Neo Ouija close their doors (though the latter is being resurrected), so it's good to see Ghostly keeping its SMM venture alive by supporting acts like Cepia, Loscil, KILN, and Twine, and releases like Natura Morta.

October 2007