Kate Simko: Music From The Atom Smashers

Kate Simko would seem to be the perfect candidate to compose the soundtrack for a science documentary like The Atom Smashers. Though she's released material on Spectral Sound, her elegant and restrained material is anything but hard-hitting techno. Instead, her more atmospheric approach to the genre dovetails naturally with the demands of a physics-themed soundtrack. In addition, the collection gives Simko a chance to put her classical training to use and indulge her composing and piano-playing sides too. In the film, physicists at Fermilab (the most powerful particle accelerator in the US) embark on a quest to locate the Higgs Boson particle, otherwise referred to as the “God Particle” and “The Holy Grail of Physics,” while also dealing with the threat of federal-funding cuts and competition from European scientists. The sequencing of Simko's track titles suggest that they adhere to their chronological appearance in the film, with most of them being short set-pieces of synthetically-sculpted sound, and most of them beatless too.

“God Particle,” which comes closest to replicating Simko's established style, drapes a brooding, two-toned waver and hooting melody over a slinky tech-house pulse. It and “Sociber,” a jaunty, detail-packed hybrid of dub, techno, and house, are the recording's sole techno-related moments, with the remaining pieces either textured ambient soundscapes “Nature Surreal (Airport Edit),” “Random Universe,” (“Who Needs Science?”) or exercises in classical minimalism. The splendorous repetitions bubbling through “The Creative Part” call to mind the romantic style Philip Glass brought to his own “soundtrack” La Belle et la Betê, while “The Creative Part (Epilogue)” is as sweet an example of melodic minimalism as has been heard in these parts for a long while. Music From The Atom Smashers doesn't lack for variety—there's also a brief plunge into Deepchord-Burial territory (“Fear of the Unknown”), transporting ‘scape of rippling haze and blurry tones (“Tevatron Dream”), and the rather gamelan-like, bell-tinkling “Trouble Brewing”—but listeners should be aware that it's anything but a prototypical techno release by Simko before shelling out their hard-earned cash.

June 2009