The Host

The Host

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The Host -- a fresh alias and a fresh start for Irish producer Barry Lynn, who's best known for his dubstep-inclined work as Boxcutter -- arrived with a slight whiff of the mysterious: upon announcing the act's signing, Planet Mu Records initially kept mum about Lynn's involvement; there's also the vaguely ominous tone of the name and the album's post-apocalyptic/sci-fi artwork. But -- at least in terms of abstract electronic music -- this project turns out to be much more about the familiar. A predilection for '90s-era internet terminology ("Angel Fire," "Neo-Geocities") among the track titles seems to have little direct relevance to the music save for its general emulation -- at least in the album's first half -- of that era's prevalent IDM sounds, particularly recalling the classic work of Aphex Twin, Autechre, Boards of Canada, and µ-Ziq (aka Planet Mu label-head Mike Paradinas.) Hence, we get plenty of fluttery, skittering percussion alongside amorphously oozing synth washes; spacey, spiraling melodic effects, and sometimes woozy, ominous bass thrums. In a few instances ("Tryptamine Sweep," "Second Life"), the rhythm tracks have a spastic but light-on-their-feet quality that recalls the hyper-kineticism of contemporary Chicago footwork music (fittingly enough, since footwork has found its most fervent ambassador in Planet Mu), but even so it's balanced and muted by the subdued pace of the surrounding synth activity. This is, at heart, music for dreaming, definitely not (even thinking about) dancing. That's even more true of the album's second half (the final four tracks are nearly as long as the first eight combined) which, along with the briefer, earlier outliers "Hidden Ontology" and "3am Surfing," largely eschews rhythm and percussion altogether in favor of a more floating, organic approach reminiscent of '70s Kosmiche and gently psychedelic new age music; all shimmering, suffusive warmth and soft, melted-in-the-sun guitar frippery. Most satisfying -- and the clear centerpiece -- is the seven-and-a-half minute "Rainy Sequences/Phosphene Patterns," which dissolves from languorous odd-meter jazz-fusion, complete with a lusciously snaking bassline, to a gorgeously somnolent, sun-flecked daze. The shorter, slightly cheerier "Summer Solstice at Cape Canaveral" charts an approximately opposite trajectory to similar effect. And the gentle, entirely pulse-less "Aeontology" and "Birthday Bluebells" simply meander through space, pleasantly aimless. Despite an abundance of ideas and ample facility with sound and texture, The Host never quite coheres into anything more than an enjoyable collection of doodles and moods -- but that's definitely not to suggest Lynn's hospitality is ever anything less than gracious.

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