Hailing from Moscow, Russia comes Ambidextrous, an ambient/downtempo electronic artist who is starting to turn heads in the downtempo scene. Mixing warm basslines with infectious melodies that seem to come straight from a 80s mixtape, he's fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. His new album Radio Not has now been released and I attained the enviable task of reviewing this next entry. So here I go, vodka bottle besides me (I'm completely serious) and with undivided attention.
Arp in the Fridge immediately shows what Ambidextrous is influenced by. It's the recognisable sound of the 80s and 90s, an updated version of Alpha Wave Movemen and Global Communication. Jean Michel Jarre's modern cousin, but with a 303. A little side note: If you're a listener of our podcast and a reader of my reviews you should know by now that I have two weaknesses. The first is ambient music; the second one is acid basslines and melodies - this album has plenty of those. Saint John's Mood is a wonderfully laid back soundscape reminiscent of Carbon Based Lifeforms' earlier work that blends warm pads with the cold acid bass and a nice build-up to a nice beat of downtempo house. Naukograd continues the acid blurbs and exquisite use of filtering. School of Dub does not, as its name implies, venture into dub techno but instead delivers a wonderfully melodic hook that you've come to expect of this release by now.
And that's where things get hard for me. It's extremely difficult to review a release like this. "Why?", I hear you ask? Because it's incredibly cohesive and well within the confines of the genre. I am absolutely in love with all things ambient, but because of the overall feel of the genre it's hard to hold on to a specific element in a track because most of the time ambient music uses the same elements in every song and on every track. This is by no means a bad thing though. Cohesiveness is certainly something that every band, producer of singer/songwriter should strive for when releasing an album. But with ambient it's hard to grade something that is meant to be so cohesive that tracks flow into each other without the listener noticing it as much. This might seem like an easy way out, but it's not. It can be viewed as a criticism when an album doesn't seem to have any high or low points but bear with me on this one. If I were to grade this album as a whole, as an hour long experience then I can tell you this: This is a great album. It's incredibly well produced and mixed, it features an acid synth that is hard to tell apart from the real thing (I spoke with Ambidextrous, he told me it's a VST and not an analogue synth) and it manages to grab hold of me completely from the get go. It's interesting, tracks flow into each other perfectly and while not every melody is as "good" or "memorable" I would be lying if I said that it didn't hit its intended target. And, okay, if I did have to pick my favourite track on this album then it would have to be Tiangong, because that bassline is fantastic. But it's a close call between every other track on the album.
And now my verdict, do I think you should get this album? Yes, totally. If you're a fan of Sync24, Carbon Based Lifeforms or Global Communication and you're looking for a spiritual successor to the latter, then this album will make you feel right at home. It sounds like an updated and more powerful version of the ambient of the 80s. Its individual tracks do not really stand out, but as a whole this album is a force to be reckoned with.