2010 Ten Favourite Labels
Liam Singer

Keith Canisius
Cursor Miner
Dark Party
Ex-Wise Heads
Forever Delayed
The Fun Years
Dirk Geiger
The Green Kingdom
Chihei Hatakeyama
Robin Holcomb
The Inventors of Aircraft
Peter Jørgensen
My Dry Wet Mess
Silje Nes
Sharp & Whetham
Liam Singer
Erik K Skodvin
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Squares On Both Sides
David Sylvian
Taiga II
Francesco Tristano
RJ Valeo

Compilations / Mixes
Buzz.RO! 2010
Crónica L
Timo Maas
Movement Torino Festival
Sebastian Mullaert

Dday One / Glen Porter
Depth Affect
The Gentleman Losers
Piece of Shh…
Teebs & Jackhigh
thisquietarmy + yellow6
Tom White

RJ Valeo: Atman
Io Records

If any release can rightfully be called a ‘labour of love,' then RJ Valeo's Atman is most assuredly it. Issued on his own Io Records, his long-in-the-making follow-up to the 2004 Type Records release September was recorded, mastered, and produced by Valeo (who recently has been issuing techno-oriented material under the Isomer Transition alias), and its artwork and hand-made packaging were likewise handled by him. A year-and-a-half in the making, the album's pieces were inspired by minimalist classical composers and kindred electronic artists, and created using field recordings, vinyl samples, hardware synthesizers, software processing, and from sessions involving musicians Trevor Sias and Justin Michael Miller. And, as the Atman title indicates, a large inspiration for the project comes from Valeo's study of Buddhism. Put simply, the term (which he first came across when reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth) refers to one's truest self, the pure, un-burdened one beyond the everyday ego-based self of physical existence. Valeo acknowledges that the metaphysical concept's focus on self-transformation and self-actualization as well as its focus on transcending the egoistic self constitute a major part of its appeal for him.

Given such background, no one should be too startled, then, to learn that Atman's music sometimes exudes a meditative character that's more soothing than unsettling, though even then darker undercurrents do occasionally declare themselves (the industrial noises, that punctuate the long electrical tones and cloud-like washes blanketing the panoramic vistas of “Chasm,” for example). But Atman is anything but one-dimensional, however, as Valeo explores a number of styles in this wide-ranging collection: “Safe Harbor” introduces an electro-acoustic feel to the album in its hazy electric guitar shadings before flirting with psychedelic post-rock when beats enter the picture, and “Through the Noise” flirts with techno in the insistence of its hammering percussive and rubbery bass patterns. Techno, in fact, turns out to be the album's primary reference point, even if the techno in question is of the more bubbly and atmospheric kind. The sleek and futuristic tech-house of “Richter Scale 6” has roots in Detroit techno, jazz, and even, in its rhythmic swing, Latin, and one might be reminded of The Orb when “The World of Tomorrow” overlays its tribal dub-techno rumble with a croaking voice sample. At disc's end, “When Things Weren't So Complicated” brings things full circle by revisiting the opening track's meditative ambient style. Atman ultimately plays like a rich and future-focused travelogue whose explorative hybrids of multiple genres are framed by relatively calming set-pieces.

November 2010