Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Elite Barbarian - It's only when you get to the end that it all makes sense


picture by Rach Hunt

Some electronica can leave you feeling decidedly chilly, coming across like a machine academia deforested of emotion – nothing wrong with that I suppose, jeez I like COH for just that reason… but I always crave a bit of the human equation mixed in with the data swirl, and with Elite Barbarian you get plenty to connect with, even if the vibe is, at times, playfully wrapped in a veil of semi abstracts.

The opener, Going Down is really satisfying. Its dubby rotors catching the light, causing fluttering shadows in a pulsing regularity… Lots going on here, blanketed by a humming undulation, and a fuzzy / flanged vibe that’s eager to please, blotched in a sizzle of cauterized hiss… Carpets of differing textures fed off each other like ink blown spindle spiders, riding on a dark sub-current of key motifs. The sliding aqua lung beat and other slivery undercurrents stapled to a submerged punch, a counterpoint a spill in tasty tensions.

Less Words relishes in a more reflective vibe, with its harboured twilights falling through space, flanked in predatory shadows, highlights that bleed in the drone, like saturated sugar, with all the sweetness of uncertainty. In a similar vein, Woods is full of branch strung mobiles, sustained bells that twist into key slurries and diaphanous frowns... just like an epitaph to fading memory. This, of course, is balanced with the pleasure centres of Tropic, with its beaty electronic fondue of intercoms, sliding between the slamming doors of chipped melody. The squash racket plush of Clips with its IDM scuffles brimming in colour, shape and direction continue the sense of adventure. Loops inside loops fight for your attention, as edgy beats hole punch their way through.

The execution is just seamless, full of skilful transitions and unexpected blends, worthy of its place along side the likes of Jaga Jazzist or the more textural experiments of the Pan Sonic crew / early Magnetophone (this album certainly possesses the former’s playfulness), but without sounding too derivative. With most tracks, the content is subtly morphing, shifting around quite happily, the stasis of a looped safety blanket, added to or subtracted from … the tracks expected path always diverting off into interesting introspective examination / expansions, the drama unfolding in changeable lighting conditions. Sometimes the track finds a niche and sticks with it, as with Soft Remind or with the repeated piano blur of Shore that brings to mind Mr Reich’s early trifles with minimalism, the tracks foamy creases, a lapping tide falling slowly out of sync. Others, the repetition is the hungry machine breakdown, an itchy and kinetic infusion, like the album’s 16 min finale Let’s go back to Morse code. It comes across like a live exploration, a glitched malfunction strung along a dronic corridor, the loop’s bounciness bathed in washes of interstellar matter, distended grids that are flung off into the distance. A key choral flux weaved in waves of static, which miraculously re-emerges as an amputated hybrid of the tracks rhythmic core. This fills up the space in shearing sounds then collapses, returning as a ghostly echo of its former self, edges fried and indistinct, dissipating to the album’s close.

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