Coldness and lack of emotion are accusations often levied against electronic music. As we launch into 2003 though it seems more and more artists (Múm, for one) are trying to create music that uses the pervasive glitch, the samples, sequencers and effects of more fucked-up electronic contemporaries in harmony with traditional instrumentation and vocals to create something warm and organic, true fireside music for the 21st century.
Pulseprogrammers Joel Kriske and Marc Hellner seem to be working on this vein, determined to knock old electronic clichés on the head. The record - or perhaps I should call it a multimedia project - is an intruiging one, involving artists, a film producer and poet to help create words, visuals and a curious packaging concept to accompany the music. How well this all works remains to be seen, but the ambition is certainly admirable.
Firstly - I have to say the packaging is very fun. Initially rather confusing, it turns out the wrap-around paper sleeve has tabs and corners enabling it to be folded into a cute arty little cardboard house which sits in your room. It's a rather minimal piece of architecture to be sure, with a streaky black and white exterior resembling some sort of arctic shelter. Little lights shine from the windows and it looks very warm inside. Why is this important, I hear you ask? Well, while not wishing to second-guess its creators, I would say the little house rather mirrors the intentions of the musicians - to create a warm refuge in cold surroundings.
What about the music then? it varies, but the theme is consistent - warm vocals, sometimes melancholy, sometimes comforting, sometimes a bit of both - with a subtle but complex backing of glitches, beats, synths and live instrumentation. It all combines to create a sleepy warmth from rather bare ingredients. It won't exactly have you dancing (although there is the occasional hook and a couple of tracks with noisier beats), but it's a great alternative to the mass of rather bland chill-out material out there. In 'Blooms eventually' the vocals are rather over-treated (Vocoders are rather 90s after all), but when harmonies, cute organic little bleeps and subtle strings kick in it can be very affecting. The feel varies though - the rather artily named 'Stylophone purrs and mannerist blossoms' is all spooky echoing poetry, high-pitched stylophone snowflakes and glitchy sparks. Simultaneously icy and warm, the oxymoronic theme continues 'til we finish off with 'Bless the drastic space' - some beautiful slow-fi songwriting and vocal harmonies with excellent chopped-up electronic backing, somehow reminiscent of both Low and Fridge.
Electronica to warm up your winter then - out in February and comes highly recommended.
8Matthew Willson's Score