Integral: Rise
Tympanik Audio

Tapage: The Institute of Random Events
Tympanik Audio

On their hour-long Integral release Rise, German duo David Rotter and Rafael Milatz give their symphonic electronica a decidedly old-school twist by infusing it with a dramatic prog dimension that faintly references the music of Klaus Schulze and other ‘70s electronic pioneers. Don't get the wrong idea: Integral's music sounds thoroughly contemporary in terms of production style but it also stretches back across the decades to an era when ambitious producers aspired to create entire sonic universes without feeling embarrassed about doing so. Each of Rise's eleven pieces function as parts of a suite-long whole, and the material exudes the kind of aura that can't help but bring the word “cinematic” to mind, especially when a track like “Back Here Alone” unspools with such dystopic fever. Elsewhere, “Reaktor” underpins dreamy ambiance with hyperactive, bass-prodded beatsmithing while “Moonwalk” naturally imbues its slow galaxial throb with ethereal character. An unexpected surprise arrives when the album's exeunt “Je ne trouve pas la sortie” proves to be partially acoustic in nature. Often brooding in character, Integral's “dark ambient-IDM” is inarguably polished and impeccably assembled but it can also at times come dangerously close to sounding generic (a problem that's become increasingly common when so many producers use similar gear to create their tracks). Consequently, Rotter and Milatz might want to consider giving Miko Mikulicz a more prominent role in their music-making, given the huge difference his violin playing makes to the group's sound in its sole appearance. The atmospheric textures his melismatic string melodies add to “Doors” help make it tower over the other tracks.

Though overlong, T. Ham's debut full-length under the Tapage name The Institute Of Random Events impresses for its deftly programmed fusion of scalpel-sharp electronic beats and atmospheric sound design. The album's fourteen tracks embrace a stutter-funk glitch-hop style that suggests some viral fusion of Enduser, Venetian Snares, and Funkstörung. There's not a lot of breathing room in the Tapage universe with each track pretty much stuffed to the gills with factory-machine beat science, occasional acid interjections, and assorted other sonic manipulations (“Sinkpool” and “Much Like A Dream” stand out for the relative restraint of their attack). The scarred groan of electric guitar merges with synthetic sounds on some pieces (Ham apparently played guitar in a “metal/hip-hop band in the Netherlands” before turning to programming and electronic experimentation) while clangorous industrial beats plough through others. Industrial-heavy rhythms in “Head Cage” work up a pummeling skank amidst glistening bell tones, after which “Dirtwalker” and “Pretend Not To See” juxtapose violent synthesizer writhings and near-symphonic tonal flourishes—not the first time an electronic producer has combined such seemingly contrasting elements within the same track. While there's no questioning Ham's skills and enthusiasm, sixty-five minutes of The Institute Of Random Events is about fifteen more than is necessary, especially when the listener's been exposed to pretty much everything Tapage's offering long before the album's finished.

November 2008