Astrobotnia, Pt. 1

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Astrobotnia, Pt. 1 Review

by Glenn Swan

A very satisfying first installment in the anonymously credited Astrobotnia trilogy, released on Rephlex Records. The label has found (or cultivated) a good thing here, in much the same way Richard James spearheaded the label's secrecy with early aliases like Martin Trezidder and Q-Chastic. Ten years later, the torch gets passed with a fresh splash of petrol. Astrobotnia, Pt. 1 is a warm hybrid of familiar and disparate elements, like a jellyfish with claws or a blue snowman on wheels. In the same way Boards of Canada sneaks out samples of recognition (even nostalgia), Astrobotnia spoons out disorienting but recognizable textures, set like precious stones within a framework of sputtering percussion tracks -- accomplished tempo-twisters that resemble plastic, aluminum, rubber, glass, and, yes, sometimes even actual drums. "Lightworks" opens the disc with wonder and mystery; an expansive blackberry sky bursting with fireworks and spectator awe. The channel switches to plasma feedback and bass chords yawning through half-speed breakbeats on "Hallo." The drums start shuffling into the upper atmosphere with "Everyone," as a not-so-friendly gentlemen shares his thoughts amidst treacherous chords of ambience. Tracks like "Acidophilus" and "Sweden" are electronic lullabies of crisp Sunday mornings -- the type Ovuca might have -- and groovebox rhythms that range from subdued countertop thumping to lazertag shoot-outs. "Untitled" is a beeping little pingpong of hip-hop and string samples, and "The Wing Thing" keeps a similar (but heavier) groove with whiney clusters of keyboards à la Global Goon. "Miss June" follows next, and its classic Rephlex: simple, gloomy synth melodies negotiating with squelches of acid and a dash of creepy playfulness. The disc closes with "Applause," featuring the obvious group noise, as well as a strange out-of-tune piano and vocals gurgling through a manic ring modulator. This fascinating reward of an album, and really all three albums, is due to a successful marriage of textures: barbed, crunchy beats wrapped in harmonic threads, then dipped in stardust. It's Eno and Lanois' gorgeous Apollo soundtrack remixed by Funkstörung, and an outstretched hand into the future. Essential.

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