Dronelock and Ontal:
Dronelock (British producers Martin Cartledge and Alexander Church) and Ontal (Serbian duo Boris Noiz and Darko Dekode) are collaborators in more ways than one. Not only have they joined forces for their collective debut album The Tropics, they also jointly operate the label Shadow Story on which the album appears. The outfits are natural bedfellows, considering their shared interest in experimental soundscaping and dark, industrial techno, and the album, produced primarily using analogue hardware, contains ample doses of ambient tonal explorations and club-ready workouts.
Dronelock & Ontal have generously composed a track-by-track textural narrative to bring the sixty-three-minute release's concepts into focus, even though track titles such as “Deductive Reasoning” and “Ultimate Questions” are by themselves suggestive of the analytical and philosophical concerns the creators have drawn upon for inspiration. In essence, The Topics concerns the manner by which advancements in science and philosophy have equipped humans with the mental tools to fashion arguments, understand culture, analyze phenomena, pose questions, undertake research, and identify fallacies and propaganda. However, with the music being wholly instrumental, the listener is left to choose whether he/she wishes to bother with the conceptual background to the material or simply attend to the music in its pure physical form.
That Dronelock & Ontal have their sights set on something more than a non-stop assemblage of club bangers is established when “Basic Methodology” inaugurates the proceedings with a brooding, electronics-heavy evocation heavy on reverb-smeared piano playing. But lest anyone think they're less interested in clubby techno, “Deductive Reasoning” lays that doubt to rest in presenting a high-energy throb of locomotive beatsmithing that the producers slather with all manner of inventive whirr'n'click. Vicious by comparison, the industrial-strength “Investigation of Similarities” roars with even greater determination, while “Sources of Argument” grinds relentlessly through its own pummeling minefield of beats and atmospheric effects. Of rather more melodic character is “Essential Attribute,” which stands out for sweetening its low-riding pulse with radiant piano playing.The tracks generally locate themselves somewhere in between the ambient and techno poles, and in some cases integrate the two in impressively seamless manner (e.g., “Discovery of the Senses”). Regardless of where specifically the tracks fall, the general universe conjured by Dronelock & Ontal is an alien and oft-ominous one teeming with micro-detail. In terms of the album's arc, the material steadily builds and intensifies as The Tropics progresses, such that the most forceful tracks appear during the second half (the lethal android throb that powers “Attack and Defend” and “Ultimate Questions” makes them two of the album's most memorable pieces). Truth be told, the release is weakened by an occasional lesser track (e.g., the too-drowsy “Better or Worse”), but the strong cuts go a long way towards compensating for those lesser moments.