Phonem, Hydro Electric
Released: May 2000
The "classic Autechre" sound found on Tri Repetae and Amber is pervasive throughout the world of IDM. It is characterized as fuzzy, fractured, distorted rhythms and sweeping, orchestral synths. These sounds meld together beautifully in Autechre's music, but other artists who try to emulate their success (including Aboo himself) often fall short on one or more components. This sound is, in fact, now a cliche--even Autechre has moved beyond it. But, to be sure, the fusion of disparate elements is what drove many of us toward this music in the first place. So it's great when an artist like Phonem comes along to remind us of what made the sound so exciting in the first place. The tracks on this album, which is Phonem's second release in the last few months, are long--at least 7 minutes each, with many in the 12 or 13 minute range. But those minutes are worthwhile because the songs build stories via synth sweeps and CGD, fx, and samples. The synths provide the framework--sweeping highs and lows that echo from one side of the song to the other--while the CGD provides the details--piercing distortions and fx that move in all directions and across all ranges of emotions. "Mainframe" is a perfect example: the CGD moves everywhere, across all possible realms of sound distortion and manipulation. But the synth line is consistent, providing anchor in a wave of weird shit. This is not a repeat of Autechre by any means; this is first-rate music, polished and intelligent as anything I've heard this year. Perhaps the strength here is the one thing that so many Autechre imitators lack--the ability to demonstrate in each note the sheer joy of making music.
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