Pete Namlook

Syn II

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Syn II is a somewhat atypical Pete Namlook release, one that ups the intensity as well as the tempo. The avid collectors might compare it to his limited-release Escape project from 1994 with Dr. Atmo, featuring more aggressive beats and a distinctly futuristic edge. Both albums are more in line with trance acts like early Orbital or the original compositions of frequent John Digweed partner Sasha. The four songs here are all very lush in their own way, and cover some interesting terrain. "Töulin -- Spirit of the Earth" has an expansive quality that rivals the sonic overkill of the Orb, but thankfully keeps focus with a leaner groove underneath the sci-fi soundbytes and pulsing keyboards. There's a curious David Torn-style guitar refrain looping around for a few minutes as the percussion slithers down to a whisper, but the 4/4 beats rise again to push the stray elements through. The only time the disc resembles one of his standard-issue ambient slow-burners is in the second track, "A Meditation on Modern Philosophy." It opens with an existentialist quote from the anime Ghost in the Shell, then spreads out a vast skyline of synth in a holding pattern, peppered lightly with some tabla samples at around the halfway point of its 15-minute existence. Textures weave in and out of earshot, but not in a way that gives the tracks any clear forward momentum: It's just a satisfying ellipsoid. What follows is "Mindlab," a harmonic cluster of sequenced lasers and mechanized percussion, with a melody line doubled up by female vocals. It's during this piece that Namlook comes the closest to being a long-lost third Hartnoll brother, and it's satisfying to hear him succeed in a style he explores less often. The atonal "Night Time Pleasures" closes out the disc -- a wonderful and tense bit of spindly ambience and percussion that can best be described as Brian Eno softly creeping about in a mechanical scorpion costume. For this degree of electronic energy to come from a solo Namlook album seems like the exception rather than the rule. Consequently, he delivers an album worth noting amidst his exhaustive catalog.

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