Thursday, 14 November 2013

Recondite - Hinterland


To best sum up the sounds ushering from out of Lorenz 'Recondite' Brunner's music, one must stop, pause and imagine the unimaginable; think the unthinkable and reject the already-strong establishment that the 'classic' Acid House sound has conjured for many a curious discoverer in the past. The German-born producer doesn't follow by the book, nor does he appear to take the same route when - as his 2012 debut On Acid focused heavily on - using the cornerstones of electronic dance music via the treasured Roland devices of 303's and 808's, to enact a familiar burrowed complexion a lot of current Techno enthusiasts are hoping to hit. Recondite's sound, despite its acid heritage, felt more a descent into a theoretical sanctum, as opposed to spurring the 4/4 hooks upward and onward to new heights as many famous faces have currently emphasised. Its reward, while jaggedly autonomous in parts, created a new kind of solemn antiquity and seclusion that many find intriguing about the simple case of 16-note red-light flashing keys that produce sound. A testament to the genre yes, but what Brunner discovered was something that encompassed far more ethereal qualities than what the acid sound had usually demonstrated in previous efforts of a similar simplified form. 

Hinterland - coming roughly eighteen months further on and Brunner's first for Ghostly International - attempts to further broaden that sweep of chasmic atmosphere and well-aged transitioning. And while the emphasis appears to expand Acid's on-the-stroke synths and projection of the space between substance, the sophomore ends up rather more visually conductive than its counterpart. The result is a record that turns a reliant eye to its sonic alternatives to bring out more an immersive and imaginative effect than what the sounds offered originally give off. The desolate, hollowed-out space of Rise may start initially suspended like it's caught between Earthly isolation and intergalactic wandering, but Recondite's slow rise of bass and percussion provides the necessary pacing and flow to suggest this is definitely a surrounding to feel occupied in, but not completely home-suited - a lead of organ keys giving the track a quirky but malleable charisma. Swiftly then we're led into the equally withdrawn Leafs which becomes seems more well-suited to the roll-call of Selected Ambient Works in its spacious synth pads and soft brushes of beats, albeit not as directly focused or strong in encapsulating the listener in a kind of overwhelming, sonic locale. Instead, the track suggests rather than states; relying on its emphasis of beat patterns almost too much to the point the building of something out of nothing, is lost.

There's a bit more careful planning thankfully in following track Still which ironically is the first momentary break from Brunner's wintry, dominate paralysis - bass being organized a lot more carefully about the mix that it not only creates a placebo of warmth, but seems to allude to the ability to move again, even if (aided by the track's lower frequency of beats and melodic simplicity) the break-out from such static clutches is only at a trudge rather than a frantic pace. But Recondite's sounds feel suited to this slower pacing - allowing the more notational leads of synthesizers to reach more directly for the listener, as is the case with Riant. Brunner's stopping and starting of certain layers is admittedly more obvious given the scarceness and void of space that this brings, but with a treating of echo and later dabbling in distortion, there's still enough material to invoke on the listener a similar kind of voyage and means of wanting to discover, as on many past and present techno albums.

Further into the album there's a distincter focus on uncovering and looking for answers, in conjunction with the apparent isolated vibes the emptiness of space and layering continue to focus on. The smoother and less exuberant tones on Stems don't feel as antagonistic or even suggestive of some malevolent force nearby, and instead seems to conjure a more personified desire for answers rather than immediate escape or comfort. While there's less interactivity and even attempts to exemplify the atmosphere as more than this current of distilled murmuring - which unfortunately leaves the scarcity of the track's development and tonal change as a glaring fault - there's an interesting concept developing that rises up from what is one of Brunner's more focused, if untested, compositions on the album. With that said, the challenge for the listener appears to be one of almost panoramic inspection as opposed to finely-detailed interrogation. Recondite's musical scope, in terms of its visual exaction, comes off very much like the forestry depicted on the album's cover. There's a kind of blanketed calm to the music in the preceding half. And despite that this may not produce anything as visually colourful or immersive, the record seems not to bother with closer analysis - instead deciding on depicting broad sweeps of snowed-under seclusion from the safety (albeit contested) of an over-watch and/or vast distance, as opposed to close-up. 


That's not to say the electronics Brunner offers are of absolute or stern apathy, offering no personal expression or suggestion of personality. The twinkling oppositions on Abscondence, while plays into the hands of the accompanying ambience and distant simmering of electronics, holds enough acute stature to feel at the very least alive or sentient to some obvious degree. The idle whimper of notes on Clouded moreso sounds like old technology locked in standby mode, or even deep in calculative thought like it's studying, perhaps attempting to read through the very cold neutrality of Recondite's bodiless, shapeless visages. Examples like this permeate not only a charming accompaniment to Brunner's lone portrayals, but it offers up these environments as carrying a hint of mystery and past importance, rather than just passing through as one-dimensional, baseless metaphors for space or isolation. There's no denying listeners may find lesser involvement on an interactively visual level - seeing past the minimal patterns of thought in speculation as to what Recondite finds so captivating that it requires predominant focus throughout. 

But while the decision to spectate and speculate from the safety of a few miles - perhaps within some research outpost (as some tracks tend to feel secluded within) - does hinder opportunity to let our imagination fill in the gaps, tracks like Fey offer a slightly more speculative edge. What remains is a fairly ambiguous anonymity in the track's sparse bass hits, percussion claps and continuing drawing of synth tone to emphasize (too obviously maybe) a state of wonder. Lastly The Fade, amid its partially vibrating tones and carefully loosened drone lingering in the backdrop, manages to continue the previous track's consideration for melody to offer something as simple as a physical presence in what remains a risk of thinning its palette out to the point of ill-favoured, closer inspection.

Finding one's self lost, or maybe even reaching the pinnacle position in the open reaches of a foresty or tundra, can often instigate a cleaning of a slate; a reimagining of both a personal position as well as digging back up the focus and the confidence to return to safer, more recognizeable territory. It's clear that Hinterland is an album intent on being suggestive of its surroundings, and acts to seduce rather than scare its listener/viewer into further ventures about this white-clad space of nature and man-made shapes. But where Recondite's intentions and focus are pure and of a discernable level of clarity, not all of Brunner's focus and concern for the clearer picture comes through on his sophomore release. Rather, Hinterland paces itself and knows to be of appreciative of the detail, but knows not how to escape the trap of using minimalism and ambiance to reach deeper and more complexly on an emotional and narrative scale. Unlike Forest Swords' Engravings - which in a similar positioning of natural and synthetic boundaries invoked a variance of states and feelings - this is an album that falters on the opportunity to expand, and feels at times content by such vacancy. There's always a time for condensing what you have to its rawest, simplest terms. Recondite's treatments definitely feel precise, but his expansion into often worryingly speculative themes don't always default to that of a positive reaction.
~Jordan Helm

7.0

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