With baselines worthy of a Jah Wobble mixtape, Audiokern’s new eight-track EP scores top marks for both production value and unconventionality.
There are multiple nods here to more common electronic music styles, dark ambient among them. But there are too many surprises along the way – good ones, I’m pleased to report – for this disc to be reduced to one subgenre.
Switzerland’s Alain Zumbuehl is the man behind all this electronic loveliness. Known for experimenting with modular sounds and a great deal more, he keeps finding ways to push his music well off the beaten path.
This third release opens with “Uncanny Valley.” The live drum performance and Pharoah Sanders jingle bells represent the EP’s first two bold statements. The track sets a dub-style mood, along the lines of a Bill Laswell production or something by the aforementioned Wobble. European style, not Jamaican.
“Wired System” follows, with gritty beats and judiciously placed surface noise. The addition of a heavily processed vocal toward the end enhances the track’s darkness enough that one-quarter of the way through A Personal Way, you may find yourself a bit worried about Zumbuehl.
Don’t be. “Under The Same Sun” is next, with honest-to-goodness dancefloor potential. The same shadowy depth of sound is there, but the BPMs are sufficient to lighten the mood. It’s a gorgeous piece of music.
Just as quickly though, things get dark again. “Rooster,” is the one word repeated throughout “The Night Of Glory.” If post-punk heroes 23 Skidoo were making electronic music right now, this isn’t far from what they’d sound like.
For all the variety in Audiokern’s approach, the disc is surprisingly steady. The pitch may vary, the moods may shift, but the quality is of a consistently high standard.