The Expression Of Emotions
In Man And Animals EP
The Rome-based Electronique.it label has finally released the follow-up of its EP triptych dedicated to the esoteric and yet virtually evolutionary ideas and theories of Charles Darwin. Label runner, director and journalist Ivo D'Antoni gave me the opportunity to listen to each track in full before the official release date. Called The Expression Of Emotions In Man And Animals, this EP offers another three tracks that are in different ways related to the concept as depicted in the title. Limited to 300 twelve-inch copies, the liner notes reveal the aesthetic nexus of the link to Darwin: "[He] theorized how body language, and in particular facial expressions, changes and evolves in correspondence to perceived emotions. We believe that this theory can be transposed into music." This time, the material is provided by Plant 43 aka Emile Facey, the duo of Valmass and by Yard aka Chris H. Jones. Even if you detach the concept of Darwin and just view the tracks all by themselves, without any link to the overarching reason which ties them together, they are – spoiler ahead – formidable examples of electronic music in general and Ambient music in particular, the latter of course being the nucleus of this section at AmbientExotica. And despite the fact that all three tracks feature different beat and rhythm patterns, they can nonetheless be counted to this supposedly beatless genre, depending on the personal viewpoint of each listener. There is really no flaw if you're viewing this EP from the Ambient angle; I believe that the fun even increases for lovers of Dance, Detroit Techno or other club-related genres. So without further ado, here is what you can expect.
Side A is exclusively reserved for Plant 43 and his retro-futuristic glimpse into a gargantuan mellifluously mellow mirage. Blue Skyways oscillates between a gentle Cosmic Disco synthscape à la Lindstrøm and a nostalgia-driven but actually tasty New Age arch. Emile Facey's anthem is anything but a towering artifact of harmony. Starting with multilayered synth washes of the balmy kind in tandem with crystalline hi-hats, the celestial construction is further accentuated by silky sawtooth-fueled synth pads, and while this very description might be ambiguous at best and dubious at worst, Plant 43 manages to mediate between the acidic bile and aqueous aura so that the pads never seem like stabs. A belly-massaging bass line and complemental galactic strings round off this twinkling gemstone. The strings conflate well with the backing rivers, but once they rise higher, their characteristic trait morphs into an iridescent iciness which doesn't hurt the thermal heat one bit, but wafts in its own transcendental sphere and hence elevates Blue Skyways into vivacious dimensions. A poignant title to an overall gorgeous track. It's not a strict Ambient tune, but heaven, it's close enough to the genre praise the living daylights out of it! There's no baneful twilight in it, just saccharine tone sequences in major. There's nothing wrong with a track that focuses solely on the emotion of bliss. "A true emotional song" according to the liner notes, and this short description sums it up quite niftily… and ultimately lacks in explicating the incandescence.
Side B launches with the mysterious Rome-based duo of Valmass and their laid-back yet wonkily swirling stomper Gallano. The guys unleash their heavily filtered and modulated Roland TB-303 acid lines in the quirkiest fashion, but in the end don't deliver the piece you would expect, but rev up the languorous mystique and reach similarly lofty regions as Plant 43 did on side A. The ebullient wah-wah acid hooks start all on their own, but after 30 seconds already is an enigmatic duskiness in the form of swelling and falling synth waves interspersed. These waves are either arcane and abyssal or brightly-lit and stardust-soaked. Glimpses of radio transmissions and quavering sine loops are placed in the background, camouflaging the lurking pitch-black darkness in the distance that is all the more noticeable due to the slowly pumping bassline and the constant ebb and flow of the acid line. The concept of (cyber)space bases in large parts on the acidified golden thread or skeleton of Gallano; the synths in the background, however, depict a crystalline structure or pristine frostiness which literally expand the perceived notion of wideness all the more, their reverberations fade into the distance and remain audible because of the alcove-evoking buildup. Rapturous purity was the topic of side A, so the first part of side B offers the feeling of deep immersion, with scents of loneliness and melancholia. And the structure is yet again ambientoid, naturally a big plus in my book. The driving factor: reciprocation.
The final offering is presented by Yard aka Chris H. Jones, and he remains true to his long-spanning discography of almost a decade, delivering a progressive and deep Dance track called Cascade that is undoubtedly gloomy, but surprisingly mellow in the right places. The hi-hats and shakers are soft and mellow, aptly underlining the two-note synth aorta which keeps running through the whole track and pulsates in several halftone steps. Its implied color is rusty-red, and depending on your personal viewpoint and feeling, you either perceive them as sunset-evoking or post-apocalyptic; the latter perception cannot be ruled out in its entirety, for the thickness of the textures together with the residency in minor keys augment their threat and murkiness. Due to the consistent nature, the backing drones sound almost machine-like and have an entrancing rhythm to them, as do the three-pulse hi-hats that clatter along like a train. The atmosphere is maintained for several minutes, only slightly altered by an additional sawtooth bassline. And these are basically the whole 10+ minutes of Cascade. Due to its repetitive nature, coupled with a long duration and a maintained thick atmosphere, the flow of the tune is quite high, allowing the listener to adjust to it with ease. As there are only really two differentiable notes featured and the mood is decisively dark, Yard has delivered an intriguing minimal Detroit-influenced track in the tradition of Gas with – you've guessed it – enough Ambient ornaments and particularities to encourage its affiliation to the genre as well. The beats are pumping, but never in the spotlight, as their function is to show the passing of time of the splattering Cascade. The respective emotion? Profound relaxation.
The second EP curated by the Electronique.it label is even better and more stringent as a whole than the first entry The Power Of Movement In Plants. The tunes are all shimmering marbles on their own and succeed in three important categories: they are enthralling when isolated from each other. Then again, they work well back to back. And finally, they encapsulate one of Darwin's many theses of the different states of emotions. Sure, it is only very loosely baked into the EP and presumably only a gimmicky reason in order to glue these tracks together, but seriously, look closer and you see that the overarching concept is mirrored. All tracks depict one particular emotion, a state of mind or body. Since Darwin's idea is rather abstract and hard to depict in music without sounding clichéd – all artists avoid the addition of field recordings or animal-related Radiophonic Workshop samples to their tunes – the label has done the best to aurally transport it in the medium of electronic music. As I've stated before, this is a concept EP, but only loosely based on Darwin, so you can perfectly enjoy it without the knowledge of the overarching entanglement, and naturally, you can isolate the tunes and enjoy them in different playlists or add them as you see them fit in your DJ set. One curious but utterly positive final note has to be mentioned in this regard: despite fulfilling the specific needs and wishes of the Ambient crowd, I believe that you can play all three of the tracks in club-compatible sets. A strange conclusion for a hybrid Ambient/Dance EP, but there you go. Highly recommended! Now bring on the final entry of this series! Or expand it further!
Further reading and listening:
- Listen to long excerpts of the EP on Electronique.it's SoundCloud page.
- Follow Electronique.it Records on Twitter – @electronique_it.
Ambient Review 125: VA – The Expression Of Emotions In Man And Animals EP (2012). Originally published on Sep. 19, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.