Sunday, July 25, 2010

album review! monolake - silence

it's been a while since i've discussed/reviewed a full-length album. why not start with a work from one of smilecoldanatomy's favorite producers? so, here are my thoughts on monolake's silence, from late last year.

for 15 years monolake, which at this point is headed solely by robert henke (but has previously featured gerhard behles and more recently, torsten profrock), has been on the cutting edge of electronic music. using the power of computers to unite aspects of techno, ambient, and dub(step), monolake has created a distinctive style that sounds immediately unique. the last monolake album, polygon cities, was released in 2005 and presented a relatively accessible collection of longer, dancefloor-ready tracks. five years later, silence shows henke embracing his meditative side (as well as interesting sound design decisions, according to his website), stepping away from straight 4/4 techno to craft some of the most intriguing soundscapes he's ever produced.

the album begins with the aptly-titled 'watching clouds,' as far-away bass thumps make way for a uniquely monolake-style storm of metallic clicks, clings, and clangs, sounds and effects that are featured throughout silence. the track leads into a pair of low-slung dubstep-ish tracks, but it's the melodies here that are the most captivating: listen to 'infinite snow' with its flurry of piano-sounding notes singing out a captivating tale of lush eastern expressions with subtle hints of pentatonic blues music. 'null pointer' employs a familiar tool to monolake fans: a computerized female voice. here it discusses "lab safety" and is used to cerebral effect, with the final instructions rising up to an almost psychedelic crescendo of pitch modifications.

the pace picks up a bit with 'far red' and 'avalanche', both of which anchor rapid-fire clicks to broken-beat rhythms under foreboding atmospherics. 'avalanche' is a slice of dub techno from the future, with its abominably deep chords. it fades away to make space for 'void', a gorgeous ambient piece featuring soft, dreamy synth tones paired with a wandering female voice submerged in reverb.

'internal clock' is next, with another unique melody; this time, it sounds like some sort of eastern stringed instrument plucked from the future and processed in way that only monolake can do. things get darker with 'shutdown', an aggressive track with squealing, disorienting flutes anticipated by last summer's 'atlas' 12". 'shutdown' transitions into 'reconnect', which features the voice from someone's answering machine surrounded by robotic hand claps. the album ends with 'observatory', its vocal samples lost in a cloud of thunderous dub chords.

overall, i find silence to be an excellent album from start to finish; each track is abstract and thought-provoking. it shows that monolake has not stopped growing and evolving, and continues to lead in the world of intelligent electronic music. much respect to robert henke and monolake for their forward-thinking approach to sound design!

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