Socially Inept

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File under delectable: Richard Bailey has easily created the best ambient album you're going to hear in 2004 for Miami's Merck label. Bailey accomplishes the ultimate feat in electronic music production -- finding the precise amount of audio content for each track, without ever over-producing or underwhelming. For "Place Gun to Head" it means slowly simmering a grey mindscape before allowing a taunt dubby beat to slide in, followed by some ambient bleeps later down the road. On "Deep Like Airline Failure" it means allowing a wistful guitar line (or synthesized guitar as it may be) to twist up slowly through slightly fractured beats before floating out on its own midway through the track. And on "Little A" it means computing the precise arpeggiated sequence to propel the bubbling rhythm below, catching a mood halfway between the foreboding electronics of Tangerine Dream's Risky Business score and Autechre's patented rotary percussion skip. Most of these tracks rely on the bare minimum of variation to achieve their fluid movements, although "Pinching Point" comes along with a more elaborate set of sounds and stanzas just in time to keep you from drifting too far from shore. Those who perpetually seek out new sonics as the gauge of quality electronic music might be disappointed with the lack of tonal or beat innovation. But in chasing the next sound, too many artists miss the chance to really master the one that they have. Bailey takes the time and delivers one of the best examples of post-millennial atmospheric techno to date.

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