Signalform + Tachikoma: Understanding Media

Signalform (aka Dron members Frederik Dahlke, Ingo Zobel, and Christoph Abert from Germany ) and Canadian artist Tachikoma (aka Charles Francis Henville) apparently used the term ‘illbient' when speaking about their Understanding Media collaboration but the term, calling to mind hazy dubscapes emerging from NY lofts during the ‘90s, misleadingly represents this oft-soothing electronic collection. What's refreshing about the release isn't the textural sound sculpting of voices, clicks, and skittering rhythms—there's no longer anything terribly original about that—but the mellow, melodic approach the creators bring to the genre. The glistening electronic tranquility so sweetly heard in the opener “Accumulate” hints at what's ahead. “Process” makes good on the promise when electric piano and synth melodies form a technicolour tapestry over a familiar squelchy beat base. Elsewhere, silken washes lend “Upload” a becalmed and mysterious ambiance, until whooshes, videogame splatter, and voiceovers darken the mood, while the irresistibly pretty melodies that sparkle at the center of “Consume” encapsulate the recording's appeal in a single gesture. Admittedly, the album impresses less when it lapses into glitchy, beat-based abstractions like “Rebroadcast” (though its saxophone and Pipa are nice touches) but Understanding Media thankfully includes more than its share of satisfying moments.

July 2007