Arriving four years after his Planet Mu debut Regional Surrealism, Konx-om-Pax's 2016 full-length Caramel is easily more focused than its predecessor. As with the Glasgow-born animator/graphic designer's previous album, Caramel is hazy and abstract, but instead of being dark and eerie, this one is much brighter, filled with cheerful memories of the '90s rave scene and pastoral melodies. The songs do have a rhythmic propulsion to them, but the drums are often distant, if they haven't evaporated entirely. "Oren's Theme" is a faded memory of a piano house anthem, with a soulful vocal loop and handclaps endlessly repeating in anticipation of a climax that never arrives, along with twinkling melodies and stadium crowd noise. Eventually the track breaks down into loudly buzzing bass, slightly disrupting the ecstatic atmosphere but also making it more exciting. Other tracks play with a tense slow/fast dynamic echoing Chicago's footwork scene, and a few (especially "Mega Glacial") also submerge Source Direct-esque jungle breakbeats underneath the wobbly, neon melodies. The title track washes lo-fi trance arpeggios in echo, never hitting a beat but ending up with something too frantic and urgent to really be deemed "ambient." A few tracks such as "Beatrice's Visit" resemble grime sent into outer space, and the rippling melodies of "Cosmic Trigger" additionally recall Yellow Magic Orchestra. Apart from the fact that he's designed cover artwork for several artists on the label, it's very easy to see why Planet Mu has chosen to release Konx-om-Pax's music. It's nostalgic but it's not a rehash; he's taking elements of prior eras of electronic music and doing something new and creative with them.
AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson