Ballad of the Round Ball

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The second full-length expedition by Josh Presseisen manages to send the listener simultaneously outward beyond the stars of the imagination and inward into the remoteness of the individual consciousness. The album skillfully balances polar musical terrain: the eerie, alien barrenness of a dreamed technological future, almost too rapidly encroaching, vs. the world of complex human emotions which necessarily must give meaning and shape to that future. Like Aphex Twin, Marumari puts rhythmic track after rhythmic track one atop another until they begin to congeal into soundscapes that are almost organically verdant in impact, if that is possible with electronic sound. They are very nearly made to swing in a clanging, mechanical way (until now the peculiar trick of Richard D. James, who also proves to be an influence by way of the cryptically, trigonometrically titled tracks). Although the tone is, to a certain degree, one of chilly bleakness, Presseisen imbues his beats with a lushness that softens the harshest angles. They are then transformed into songs -- and made considerably more warm-blooded -- through his gift for protracted, intricate electroid melodies that bear comparison to those of another expert knob-twiddler, µ-Ziq. The result is not unlike an orchestration of technology, pieces of music that are both automated and Luddite at once, wide-eyed but insular. In addition, Marumari frequently employs a smothering (in the best sense of that term) overlay of modulation à la Autechre, giving the music an even more extraterrestrial surface quality, a mysterious skin that brings the tracks under a single body. Comparisons aside, Ballad of the Roundball introduced a highly individual and distinctive American voice to the international cabal of electronica, one that flirts with the sort of instantly identifiable and endemic hallmarks that have elevated certain names (Moby, for instance) into mainstream techno circles, but, nevertheless, one whose flirtations are subordinate to the music's adventurousness, its sense of exploration, and its vision. The music neither panders to a least-common denominator nor is it inaccessible, a difficult space to find and one that bodes well for Marumari's future body of work.

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