Ernest Gonzales: While on Saturn's Rings

Exponential, the underground hip-hop/electronic label founded by self-described ‘hyphenated American' Ernest Gonzales, garnered attention last year with its fine Collapsing Culture compilation, and now Gonzales (who also records under the moniker Theory of Everything) steps out with his first official release While on Saturn's Rings. Throughout the sleek forty-minute set, he wears his diverse influences on his sleeve—8-bit electronica, drum'n'bass, New Order, Blondie—and pushes his material in a heavier direction with an emphasis on live guitar playing. Averaging three minutes in length, the collection's fourteen songs (not tracks) are admirably succinct, and show Gonzales bringing together disparate bits, blending them into multi-faceted wholes, and then moving on.

Naturally, Gonzales explores contrasts of mood and style: “Throwed Snow Cones” is melodic electronica of the poppy, candy-coloured type, while “Reminisce” merges breakbeats with ‘60s organ playing lifted from Iron Butterfly or Procol Harum. On the heavier tip, “Summer Story 66” pairs loose rock drumming and raw electric guitar with a “Call Me” rising-and-falling motif and arcade melodies. Despite the songs' contrasts, certain characteristics recur: the bullish roar of Peter Hook-styled bass lines, the exuberant punch of fulminating breakbeats, dreamy guitar atmospherics, and sparkling electronic melodies. Daedelus shows up at album's end for a remix of “While on Saturn's Rings” that's predictably dense and baroque. Though his swirl of breakbeats and film voice samples (a child's singing and whistling) is disruptive with respect to the album's overall flow, it provides a nice contrast to Gonzales' material. While on Saturn's Rings isn't terribly earth-shattering or innovative, but it nonetheless offers a goodly share of sonic and melodic pleasures.

October 2007