Conforce

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This third album from Dutchman Boris Bunnik under his Conforce moniker takes a left turn from the more obvious dub techno and house influences of its 2011 predecessor Escapism, instead echoing the more subdued, aquatic-themed ambient atmospheres of his Silent Harbour project. While dub is still the foundation, it's a decidedly less beat-driven affair than his previous efforts. Where beats are present, they're minimalist and syncopated, not four-on-the-floor. Here the Conforce sound is taken to its logical conclusion, the music slowed down and reduced to its essential elements. While the influence of Detroit techno remains, Bunnik owes, perhaps now more than ever, a heavy debt to the early-'90s IDM of such labels as Warp, Merck, and Mille Plateaux. There are no highlights here, and no "tunes"; rather, the album is designed to be listened to as a whole, building only extremely gradually in intensity as it progresses, and it's almost impossible to tell where one track ends and the next begins. There's great depth here, a cavernous quality with all sorts of unique and interesting sounds echoing around in the soundfield: among the wobbling subs, woodblocks, skittering percussion, and synthesizer wash there are pings, stabs, chimes, and whines that at times recall sonar or whalesong and really add to the impression that the listener is on a deep-sea voyage of discovery in a high-tech submarine -- and if there were still any doubt about what Bunnik is aiming at here, there's even a track called "Underwater Settlers." Fans looking for more dancefloor-ready wares may initially be disappointed, but focused repeat listening pays dividends as the listener is taken on a deep and immersive journey into the dark heart of the ocean.

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