We’ve come to a strange chapter in the story of electronic music. Sounds that were long considered niche are now mainstream. It’s an exciting space to be in, as the possibilities of electronic music’s history are basically endless, but it’s also somewhat confusing. Who and what do we talk about when we talk about electronic music? Where do we draw the line between what electronic music was and what it has become? And why, if at all, is it important to make these distinctions?
No surprise, then, that 2014 has given us more questions about “proper” electronic music than answers. Young producers like Sophie and the PC Music camp contextualized contemporary dance and pop permutations in their own high-gloss chicken-or-the-egg scenarios; Aphex Twin reinvigorated his career with an album that bucks current trends (many of which he’s at least partially responsible for) by ignoring them altogether; and hardworking elder statesman Brian Eno released two records with Underworld‘s Karl Hyde that expressly contradicted each other’s sounds, styles, and creative processes. Thankfully, much of this has made for thrilling, provocative music, and in ways that reward open-mindedness and conservatism in equal measure.
This is the context surrounding Flatland, the debut LP by TJ Hertz as Objekt, and he seems keenly aware of it. Maybe that’s because he’s been a leader in the electronic music conversation since 2011, when his first solo 12″ snuck up behind dubstep and yanked the rug out from under it. Though “The Goose That Got Away” and “Tinderbox” have very little to do with the sleek, weighty tracks Hertz produces in his Berlin studio these days, the deep technical knowledge that helped make them possible is still central to Objekt’s musical identity. Here is an artist who studied electronic and information engineering at University of Oxford, has developed software both personally and professionally (for tech giant Native Instruments), readily and openly shares tips, tricks, and advice with other producers, and only further hones his craft with each intermittent release. Nevermind if Objekt has any solutions for the state of electronic music, we have more to gain from knowing what he ponders and hearing how he manifests those thoughts.
Though his approach to techno may appear clinical or overly academic, Objekt’s productions always feel animated and impulsive; Flatland is experimental to its core, but it never considers polish and passion to be mutually exclusive. It’s because Hertz can fashion fiercely tactile and resilient elements with textbook precision that the basslines in his menacing “Dogma” use your backbone like a seismometer. And it’s how “Ratchet” projects Cybotron’s Detroit electro-isms from cathode tube monitors into a 3-D virtual environment. As an intro, “Agnes Revenge” dazzles with hi-def depictions of cryonized steel shattering ice blocks in ultra slow-mo, which Objekt inverts and further details during the noxious seepage of “Agnes Apparatus”. No matter if it’s functioning as soundsystem armament or headphone oddity, Flatland won’t hesitate to travel down every avenue uncovered by the refined programming, ingenious sound theory, and liberal stylistic influences it was mapped with.
Which is why the record sounds rooted in electronic music’s history even as it carves out an alternate future. Learned perfectionist that he is, Hertz knows the secrets of Drexciyan history, Autechre’s essential deep cuts, Speedy J’s trusty drum patterns, and what makes Richard D. James a legendary producer—using such seminal influences not to revive the past, but to reinvent it for his own purposes. The chugging thump in “Strays” may not have been made with an actual Roland TR-909, nor the acid sequences of “One Fell Swoop” or “Interlude (Whodunnit?)” with a 303, but Objekt can nonetheless capture each machine’s warm, gritty soul with his own digitial approximation. Hertz remains dedicated to his icons while subverting their methods because he does so with the avant-garde spirit passed down through their work.
Throughout Flatland, Objekt reclaims his genre’s all-too-familiar affectations by making us hear them for the first time all over again. It’s a rare album that sounds so vivid and transparent despite its densely intricate constructions. Stranger still, it’s one largely devoid of apparent melodies and climactic structures, instead using pristine sound design and dynamically expressive arrangements in the way an expert orchestra plays a symphony’s fluid notation. Flatland isn’t remarkable for answering any of electronic music’s questions, it’s remarkable because it lets us consider them from a completely new perspective.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1tdNFZT