Tapage & Meander: Etched In Salt
Tympanik Audio

C.H. District: Conclusion
Tympanik Audio

Etched In Salt, Tympanik Audio's fiftieth release, finds Tapage (Netherlander Tijs Ham) and Meander (Conrad Hoyer) pooling their talents for an hour-long collaboration. Ham draws upon IDM, post-rock, and ambient electronica in his Tapage work (2008's The Institute Of Random Events, 2009's Fallen Clouds) while Hoyer's roots are in IDM, breakcore, and electronica, so the two are a natural fit. It's interesting to hear just how prevelant a role IDM plays in the album's material, given how much the style appears to have receded from view in recent years—which simply makes Etched In Salt all the more enjoyable a listen. Vestiges of dark electronica are audible in the grime and static that occasionally coats the tracks and in the hyperactive squiggle and beat throb that also appear; even so, the prototypical Tapage & Meander track emphasizes most of all the pairing of chiming IDM keyboard melodies with ferocious beats that charge with single-minded determination. Working within that template, the two producers come down at times on the softer side of the equation—“California Blue,” for example, which opens the album with the cheery melodicism and familiar whirr and click of IDM, and “Subumbrella Dispute,” where moments of calm emerge in the form of seaside field recordings —while fixating on the harder-hitting side in other instances, with storming cuts such as “Oceanographic,” “Atolla Wyvillei,” and “Nectocalyx Barrage” tearing up the tarmac. Hints of acid seep into “Tolopea” as it anchors a generally symphonic melodic approach with a tight beat thrust, and into the hard-wired “Plankton” too. A relative break from the uptempo intensity arrives via “Osedax,” a not unwelcome downtempo excursion where the focus is on textural atmosphere and a beat flow laced with traces of hip-hop, and in the gloomy ambient-IDM of “Abyssal Plain.” Each of the twelve tracks weighs in at about five minutes, long enough to make a clear and complete statement without overstaying its welcome.

In contrast to the IDM-based stylings of Etched In Salt, C.H. District's Conclusion is rooted in electronic funk and somewhat of a dancefloor-oriented attack. Five years on from his previous C.H. District album Slides, Polish composer Miroslaw Matyasik powers the album's material with the punch and drive of kick drums, crisp snares, and popping bass lines while also ensuring an engaging melodic dimension is in place too in the form of simple repeating themes and intricate electronic detailing. That's never more apparent than in the title track, which blazes forth with a tight bass drum-and-snare pattern that hits with the force of an anvil strike and with the inspired inclusion of vocal jibber-jabber that gives the tune an even funkier edge, and in the slamming closer “Go Out,” which bleeds distorted fury in its beat clatter and pounding bass throb. C.H. District even gets its Depeche Mode groove on during “Like A Human,” which features a vocal turn by one Tomtylor. Don't get the wrong idea, however: Conclusion isn't a conventional techno or house album but rather a collection that includes all of the glitch-laden earmarks of a typical Tympanik Audio release but nevertheless pushes it into a more straight-up 4/4 context. Matyasik does so with admirable dispatch too, as the nine-track album (seven, if the two dream-like interludes that Matyasik inserts to break up the beat-based focus are discounted) checks in at a lean forty-two minutes.

February 2011