Kodomo: Patterns & Light

Brooklyn-based electronic music composer Chris Child returns with his third Kodomo album (kodomo is Japanese for child, incidentally) Patterns & Light, with the forty-four minute, twelve-track collection having been preceded by 2008's Still Life and 2011's Frozen In Motion. Issued on CD and in a clear grey vinyl edition (300 copies), Patterns & Light at times plays like a travelogue designed to expose the listener to the numerous styles associated with modern-day electronic music, with ambient-electronica, minimalism, dub, drum'n'bass, and (especially) IDM some of the styles on offer.

After setting the scene with the brief, ambient-synth reverie “Overture,” the album proper begins with “Impromptu,” a high-spirited foray into Plaid-styled IDM powered by a punchy kick drum pulse and speckled with synthetic micro-sounds and swirling piano patterns. In related manner, ostinato marimba patterns of the kind one might hear on a Steve Reich recording twist the Plaid-styled acrobatics of “Blue Shifter” into memorable shape. Acoustic guitar plucks in “Mind Like a Diamond” add a bit of a pastoral folk feel to the piece, even if it quickly reasserts itself as an atmospheric, IDM-tinged dancefloor number, while “Orange Ocean” sees Child tackling dub, with echo treatments and aquatic sounds folded into a brooding synth-heavy moodscape.

“Red Giant” pairs drum'n'bass-styled breakbeats to rapid-fire IDM in a rumbling throwdown whose chiming, gameboy-styled melodies reveal why Child has been so successful as a music creator for popular video games such as Rock Band, Phase, Amplitude, and Frequency (he's also an Emmy-nominated composer who's written music for commercials and TV series). Elsewhere, “The Holographic Principle” pitches itself at an epic sonic level that suggests some faint connection to trance and progressive house, even if rhythmically the heavy-hitter has more in common with bleepy electro-funk, and “Losing Your Way” ends the album on a powerful note, though the pleasure offered by its bass-powered groove is marred by the inclusion of an annoying vocal treatment.

Patterns & Light provides a more-than-pleasurable listen, and the album clearly shows Child to be a gifted technician and producer. And though it's a recording whose tone flirts a tad too much for my taste with populism, it's also one largely free of missteps, the one in “Losing Your Way” the only glaring example. But the album impresses less with respect to originality; a less derivative sound would argue more strongly on Child's behalf, not to mention one that would present his Kodomo project as a truly distinctive and dynamic one in its own right.

March 2014