Dryft: The Blur Vent
Ocoeur: A Parallel Life
More than many an electronica album I've encountered, A Parallel Life, the latest collection of Ocoeur music by French electronic musician Franck Zaragoza, uses production technology less as an end-in-itself but rather as a means by which to give expression to emotional states (in that regard, the English translation of “au coeur” as “to the heart” hardly seems accidental). That's especially exemplified in the new recording by the many different moods touched upon by its nine settings. And at the risk of reading too much into it, the fact that Zaragoza's also a graphic designer might help explain his sensitivity to sonic texture and compositional form as well.
Stylistically wide-ranging, A Parallel Life opens with an artful take on dub-techno—the opening track, “Universe,” a dubby cauldron of bright, flickering details—before plunging even more deeply into textural waters via “L'horloge,” a multi-layered meditation of brooding mien that couples rich synthetic design with crisp beat programming. Things take a ruminative turn during “Kofski,” which sees Zaragoza bolstering cello-styled bowing with insistent surges, resulting in one of the release's most dramatic pieces. Arguably the recording's grandest moment, “North” augments its melancholic tones and organ-like melodies with a crisp beat pattern in such a way that Ocoeur can't help but invite comparison to Arovane. But that's less a knock against Zaragoza for being derivative and more a compliment for inviting the comparison in the first place.
An occasional field recording introduces a real-world element into Ocoeur's world (e.g., “Ostz,” “Beyond Infinite”), but for the most part A Parallel Life inhabits a fully electronic universe though is no less complete for doing so. Ocoeur's settings are so packed with glitch-inflected ear candy (note, for example, the subtle contrasts Zaragoza gives to the emissions, whirrs, clanks, and smears that ripple through “First Highway”), they provide innumerable moments of sensory stimulation. The fifty-five-minute recording's certainly not wanting for sound design, and A Parallel Life ultimately registers as about as sophisticated a take on electronic ambient-IDM-techno as one might hope to find.
That Mike Cadoo is in charge of n5MD would seem to offer him an obvious perk in allowing him to release whatever of his own material he might like. And in one sense he's done exactly that in issuing over the span of many years a number of recordings on the label under his Dryft and Bitcrush aliases. But no one should dismiss these releases as being inferior to any others in the label's catalogue or as the sonic equivalent of vanity publishing: Cadoo's output has been consistently solid and nothing speaks more strongly on its behalf than the physical products themselves.
One of the more interesting things about the Dryft project is how dramatically its sound has mutated since its creation in 1999 (in that sense, the choice of moniker is as apropos for Cadoo as Ocoeur is for Zaragoza). Over the years, styles and genres of varying kinds have been explored, among them drum'n'bass, click-hop, and 2-step, and now four years on from 2010's Ventricle full-length arrives The Blur Vent, its title as enigmatic as the recording's ten tracks.
The opening “Capsize Ctrl” suggests that synthesizers will be Cadoo's instrument-of-choice on this go-round, even if the soundworld fleshes out when flurries of beat elements are added to the track's billowing swirl. With the advent of “Czalyon,” the album's stylistic persona begins to come into clearer focus, its clattering beats and grinding bass undertow suggesting some futuristic hybrid of garage, industrial electronica, and funk. In contrast to the analog guitars-and-drums attack of Cadoo's 2012 Bitcrush set Collapse, The Blur Vent appears to be fervently digital in focusing primarily on programmed beats and synthetic elements. The distance between the two projects is sometimes less pronounced, however, when vocals emerge amongst the slow-burn dramatics of “These Walls” and “Blue Windows” in a manner not unlike how they appear on Collapse, as well as when scabrous guitar-like textures surface within “The Long Four Pt. 1.” That being said, a downtempo reverie such as “Like Falling” argues that Bitcrush is on average the heavier of the two.
At forty-seven minutes, The Blur Vent is a tad shorter than A Parallel Life though no less polished a production; throughout the ten pieces, Cadoo shows himself to be as skilled a manipulator of beats and melodies as always. Like all n5MD releases in recent memory, the quality level on both releases is high, so much so that one has to guard against taking the label's consistently strong output for granted.