Isomer Transition: 1971

Isomer Transition: Orbits Decaying

As he has done already with 2006's Shadowlands and 2007's Mission to Mars, RJ Valeo has seen fit to hang his latest Isomer Transition releases on an ongoing storyline about “a team of renegade scientists who are racing to save a mysterious planet from destruction by an opposing group of religious fundamentalists” (two more releases in the series, The Hardware Excursions v2 and Bright Lights, Big City, are in the works). It's an interesting conceit but one that could possibly work to Valeo's disadvantage, since—on paper, at least—it hints at a Radio Gnome-like prog dimension that's sonically absent (word is that the story can be sussed out by tracking the song titles in sequence). Truth be told, 1971 and Orbits Decaying work perfectly well sans the narrative support and can be enjoyed on purely sonic grounds. Certainly the material exudes a spacey character (all of 1971's scenes take place on Mars), and the song titles serve as convenient springboards for distorted vocal parts within a number of cuts. The EPs' tracks (almost seventy minutes in total) are somewhat Minus-like in the precision of their construction but considerably more maximal in their sonic design.

Issued on the always-reliable Moodgadget imprint, 1971 opens with “Close To Me (Dirty Edit)” (which involves Captain Rethan Doepfer and Lara rekindling a long-past affair while investigating a Mars cave), an irresistibly funky and club-ready house burner replete with a gravelly voice-over (“I want to feel you / Close to me, close to me”) and a beautiful, low-riding bass part (a similarly lascivious vocal drawls “Where Did You Come From” during the later stepper “Mastery of the Gravel”). If “Complex Undertow” sounds slightly more trippy than some of the other tracks, it may be because it involves Lara and Rethan ingesting CU, an hallucinogenic pharmaceutical native to Mars. “Downtime in the Hangar” spatters its funky techno groove with voice fragments and synth smears, while the nine-minute raver “South Side of the Mountain” opts for a rather woozy and wiry tech-house slam ornamented with dizzying meteor showers and blinding stars.

Orbits Decaying, which finds the crew having left Mars and on its way to Jupiter, perpetuates 1971's clubby vibe in jacking tracks such as “Give Me Your Hand” (the title referring to Rethan having prevented Tannoy, The Mistress's communications engineer, from plunging deep into space due to a malfunctioning safety harness while outside the ship performing routine maintenance work) and “Hot Salsa,” which merges a gravelly voice-over and slinky tech-house pulse into a seductive aural aphrodisiac. “Parametric Pressure” injects some serious bass-heavy funk into the proceedings, after which “Landing Near the Center” boosts its grooving soul-funk with infectious chants and sputtering synths. In the long run, I suspect that the narrative has more functional relevance as an inspirational vehicle for Valeo than it does as necessary context for the listener. My advice: scan the story-line as a matter of interest but don't get hung up thinking that it must be followed in order for the music itself—all of which is very fine indeed—to make sense or be enjoyed.

April 2009