Cern: Under Another Sky
Dispatch Recordings

Cern's second Dispatch Recordings album Under Another Sky kicks into gear about a minute into its opening cut, “Infinite Exchange,” and rarely looks back thereafter. As an opener, the track proves to be an excellent choice in the way it showcases the producer's remarkable beatsmithing skills and command of atmospheric design. Brooding in tone and oozing lethal sub-bass pressure, the tune dazzles the listener with a shape-shifting blend of percussive swirl, shotgun snares, and vocal accents. Now manning the Cern controls solo after Jonny Beck passed away in 2008, Ollie Macky's released a lot of Cern material since 2006 on all kinds of renowned labels, among them Ingredients, Samurai Music, Renegade Hardware, and, of course, Dispatch. He's not always alone on this release, however, as DLR, Hydro, Gremlinz, Overlook, and Loxy contribute to separate cuts.

Under Another Sky, a fifteen-track digital collection, speaks highly on behalf of Macky's gifts as a drum'n'bass stylist, someone clearly interested in elevating the music to a higher artistic plane. There's groove aplenty, naturally, but the material also rewards as a pure listening experience, especially when Macky attends so carefully to how the sounds are positioned within the mix (see the surprisingly restrained title track as a good illustration). At times, the bass swells until it becomes a seething swarm of malevolent purpose, with the music's low-end rumble and kinetic beat clatter offset by sheets of synthetic detail. One comes away from a representative track like “The Divide” awed by the beat design yet at the same time engaged physically by the track's punishing attack. Put simply, Cern's forward-thinking material satisfies on both physical and cognitive grounds.

As artful as Under Another Sky generally is, there are moments when Cern gets down and dirty with a straight-up banger, as well as times when he eases the intensity for a quieter setting (“Blumei”) and indulges an off-kilter experimental side (“Human Dynamics”). There are other surprises, too: a steady, low-end buzz builds as “Those Left Behind” (featuring Hydro) progresses, with Macky even managing to add a few jazz-related touches to its symphonic thunder along the way. And with DLR on board and featuring a trippy voiceover reminiscent of Photek's “UFO,” “Patterns” pulsates with a syncopated bass throb and snappy beat pattern also similar to the kind Photek used in his early productions. All things considered, this at times hard-hitting album registers as a superior addition to the genre catalogue, even if it is a tad long at eighty-seven minutes.

November 2014