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Karl Him, "Electronic Lament"

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The first release from new Irish label Spitroast kicks off superbly. As you would guess by the title, this is quite melancholic stuff, not 4/4 pumpin' house. "Electronic Lament pt1" opens the disc beautifully as machines buzz and swoop, cracking and hissing, like a dodgy FM radio signal. The melody rises and falls, much like a seagull gliding through some mild turbulence. "Pt 1" sounds warm and somewhat organic, despite the source, almost as if it was made on a wooden clockwork computer or something.
While track 1 is a good indicator of what's to come, it's hardly a blueprint for the record. 14 tracks of warm, fuzzy electronica follow in just over 30 minutes. 'Electronic Lament' isn't entirely without beats, but never samey. It's like the link music you hear on Future Sound of London albums used to connect tracks — 10 second pieces you wish would continue for another few minutes, but are over too fast. On "Norway," Him introduces some live instrumentation, with a laid back guitar in the mix a'la Savath + Savalas. A slightly longer song, "Straight," sounds like it could have come from the last Stars of the Lid album, while the fifth track is probably the most minimal of the record - a simple vibraphone piece which, despite having no clearly distinguishable melody, is still remarkably hummable. "Electonic Lament pt2" ups the dissonance a little with the ever-present background static coming to the fore, yet never getting ugly, the melody still watertight.
The second half is just as good, featuring a Steve Reich-esque interlocking vibraphone piece, a guitar piece (just a guitar loop) which starts off like the last 10 minutes of Low's 'Born by the wires', just that familiar jing...jjiiiinnnngggg.......jing...jiiiinnnnngggg.... Half-way through its short running time some plucked folk guitar comes in, weaving around the crashing chords. Just fabulous.
The only problem with the album is when to put it on. It's the kind of thing to play while having trouble sleeping and yet it's too engaging to drift off to. The result would easily be more wide awake than before. I don't recommend trying to do anything while this is on, even doing this review I had to turn it off in order to write anything. Listen to it on the bus or train, and you'll just close your eyes, float away and reopen them at the terminus. This is real cinematic [or maybe more video art] music. The images which come to mind are of birds, fish, or that floating bag from American Beauty. Avoiding all the pitfalls of glitch electronica (there's only one track where you check to see the disc isn't scratched) it's a fantastic debut for both artist and label, and a great start to the year. Just press play, close your eyes and follow the sounds.
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 July 2005 11:33  


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