Cernlab: 52.09

A quick glance at Marek Slipek's Cernlab release might judge it to be minimal in the extreme on account of its white, text-only cover and track titles such as “01delay,” “02delay,” and so on—and that 52.09 in the title? It refers to the total recording time, for crying out loud. Still, that impression would be wrong, as the Cernlab release simply perpetuates the design aesthetic of Electroton's Produkt-Series release and isn't therefore any kind of comment upon 52.09 in itself.

Throughout the fifty-two-minute disc, rumbling beats collide with serpentine electronic melodies in multi-layered arrangements that vertiginously pan from channel to channel. A current of propulsion does run below Slipek's tracks, infusing a modicum of heat into what are—by design, one presumes—rather cold cuts. It's also hard to warm to the Cernlab style when there's little in the way of emotional development or compositional arc. Having said that, there's also no question that the material is often arresting, cases in point “08delay,” where a slow bass pulse is battered by showers of bright electronic fragments, and “02delay,” where metronomic clicks and whirrs appear alongside lurching networks of splattering beats. The track that evidences the most “humanity” would have to be “03delay,” where head-nodding rhythms and vinyl crackle bring an earthy feel to what's otherwise a woozy fusion of hip-hop, techno, and funk.

Though Slipek has performed acid, electro, and trip-hop live with Sven Hahne under the name Conphusion, he treats Cernlab as a vehicle for “sound research and conceptual music.” It's hard to square the one style with the other, but he's hardly the first producer who's produced such markedly different material under different aliases. There's something resolutely machine-like, clinical, and relentless about the Cernlab material, especially when Slipek seems to build up his intricate tracks using loops that repeat incessantly from start to finish.

April 2009