Cubenx: The Cold Swells
Static Discos

Cubenx: Can't Throw A Stone

Fraction: Superstition

The Cold Swells collects tracks previously released on Cyan, Sinergy Networks, I Need It Music, and Static Discos, so one shouldn't expect any overarching narrative concept to assert itself. The album compiles seventy minutes of material Cubenx (real name César Urbina who hails from the Puerto Vallarta resort in Mexico and now calls Berlin home) has issued since 2005 on various labels along with some unreleased tracks. Though Puerto Vallarta's apparently known for its deep-warm currents, cold swells also form part of the locale's picture and it's these that serve as the inspiration for Cubenx's debut album. The style is deep, largely stripped-down techno of the kind one might expect from Traum Schallplatten with Urbina generally holding the listener's interest by smartly dressing up the tracks with wide-screen atmosphere and sweetly chiming melodies (such as the lush, impressionistic ones in “Puente”).

The collection has some memorable moments: the backbeat thrust of “Dirt” nicely riffs on Kompakt schaffel as does “Glandula” though this time accompanied by a disco bass pulse and aquatic keyboard melodies; “Rocks” spatters drops from Vladislav Delay's paint can over a surging techno groove; plus there's the metronomic snap, crackle, and pop of “Deep Breath” and the deep, ten-minute plunge of “Ride To Eichwalde.” The set's rounded out by a driving and richly atmospheric remix of “Glandula” by Fax and by a slinky, Kraftwerk-flavoured take on “Ride to Eichwalde” by Metrika, both of which frankly impress more than does Cubenx's own material. The Cold Swells is certainly a credible enough collection on production grounds but at times a little too beat-dependent and melodically lean. The banging pulse of “Turquoise” and jaunty strut of “Puente” pack some heat but the album too often the album resembles the kind of faceless techno one hears blending into the festival background while attendees mill about, more engaged in socializing than listening to what's happening on stage.

Urbina's also got a new 12-inch titled Can't Throw A Stone on the Berlin label InFiné that not surprisingly perpetuates the style heard on The Cold Swells with some variations. The title cut gets the A-side all to itself and throbs for a good nine minutes. A faint Kompakt scent pervades the air when a schaffel pound slides into position but the tune leaves the association at least partially behind when it swells into a gyroscopic twirl of chattering melodies and intensifying beat mayhem. The cut's relentless bass-prodded pitter-patter makes this one particularly club-ready, and the brooding theme that sneaks into view during the closing minutes is a nice touch too. The flip's “Firecrackers” works a grandiose techno vibe that has reverberant synth patterns spinning through the sky like boomerangs. In this case, the spacey treatment moves the Cubenx sound away from stripped-down techno and closer to dance-oriented IDM. That galaxial feel carries over into “Morning-After Gaze” where a snappy rhythm pulse gracefully transports the tune through an astral expanse filled with blinding starbursts and meteor showers.

InFiné compadre Eric Raynaud certainly catches one's ear with the opening title track of his own 12-inch, Superposition. The one-time guitarist and singer with French outfit Mary Lake makes his presence felt with his aggressive twist on electro-techno moves. In the title cut, the barest traces of an elastic techno groove are shredded into scattered bits of distortion and glitchy wipes but not so completely that the track topples off its axis. The jacking electro thrust charges, apparently indifferent to the cyclone of writhing interference that roars alongside it. By contrast, an almost industrial quality haunts the machine-driven funk-hop of “Inside the Neighbour's Head,” “Wild, Blue and Dense,” and the especially strong acid-funk workout “Supermarket of Souls,” suggesting that comparisons to early Autechre and Funkstörung wouldn't be out of line. “Requiem for the Unique Illusion” eases up on the intensity by marrying a relatively delicate string-based main melody to an uptempo rhythm attack. A distinctive acoustic dimension even comes into play when Raynaud slips intricate drum soloing into the tune's mid-section—a shame he felt the need to derail the effect with unnecessary tempo disruptions at track's end. Superposition nevertheless reveals Raynaud to be a talented artist of some promise.

November 2008