Tobias Reber






Kola is the solo album of Biel, Switzerland-based composer, synthesist and music lecturer Tobias Reber who is otherwise known as the coder and programer of the the three-headed collective Centrozoon (otherwise stylized as centrozoon). Recently, the band ventured into glitchier territory with every new release, leaving their majestically dusky Ambient cascades off their debut Blast (1999) behind. Naturally, this tendency cannot possibly be caused by Reber’s involvement alone but is more of a collective process, but still, the nature of Centrozoon works such as Lovefield (2007) and the – gulp! – almighty Boner (2012) is all over Reber's ophidian seven-track album whose thin epithelium allows the fruitful takeover of some of the band’s trademark sounds. The album is released on Iapetus Records and available to purchase at their Bandcamp section. Kola is first and foremost a Glitch work, but its inclusion in the Ambient section does make some sense; more about this over the course of this review. In the Glitch interstices and aerose-brazen constructions of steel and lanthanum, the Tropics shimmer through, a technicolor euphony whose innermost glow emanates erbaceous color ranges, thereby altering the argentine helixes and saltatorial formations. No coincidence, since Reber recorded Kola in three consecutive summer days in August 2013. Ritxi Ostáriz's gleeful front artwork already gives a strong hint in regard to the playful expectorations, cyber-sylvan tendrils and paroxysmic cloudlets. In lieu of Centrozoon’s alkaline sweetness and diametrically opposite asbestus-alloyed belligerent prongs, Tobias Reber fathoms out the superimposition of sylphlike antipodes aquiver with conviviality. They even bubble bucolically when their physiognomy appears to be stolid or designedly phlegmatic. Here is a closer look at the comparably vertiginious vigor. Here gallops the staccato stallion called Kola.


People have a general idea of Ambient music. There is a certain consensus, no matter how much hate or affection a sub-genre triggers. Exotica music, however, is scattered, sounds languorous at best and dubious at worst. Blame it on the strippers; each megacity sports (or rather spawns) at least a dozen of swarthy ladies who take over the name Exotica. Why the odd pseudo-lecture? Because Tobias Reber’s opener Piñata unleashes millennial glabella Glitch and unites it with both meanings of Exotica. A gorgeous concoction of Rave-oid chimes, faux-ligneous bass protrusions, marimbalicious mallet instruments and wonky cowbells feels like a sensual thicket of tropicana. Wait for the emaciated snake charmer melody in the latter half which seems to beg for a lady to pruriently dance to it. Clichéd, dun-colored, mysterious, it is time for the cyber bride to appear before the lusty crowd of chips! The follow-up Polyglot emits European ideals of mutual understanding, but only through its title, since the farting tremolo of the low frequency bumps as well as the iridescent coppice of spiraling bells and whistles otherwise take the listener to a Neuromancer-inspired future of Brazil. The clangs and blebs sound more vitreous than before, vestiges of – and vestibules to – melodies are scattered few and far between, a joyful frenzy cannot be denied. A mephitic ritual supercharged with coruscation, Polyglot is another fast-paced critter.


Omara, meanwhile, is a rather laid-back brute that may sport slower rhythms, but showcases the – by now well-known – textural cohesion Kola is made of. Tobias Reber is taking the listener to the Far East, that is if one can handle the crepuscular 8-bit bass pikes and the flurry of clinging splinters. Once this state is embraced, it is time for a particularly jumpy yet stupefyingly pentatonic tone sequence to introduce itself. Zigzagging alatorically amid the tohubohu, it inherits pure gentleness. Can a state of meditation ensue in this glistening lumberjack chop– err, chiptune? I am not so sure about that, but sense that this could be the case in terms of the paradisal Maniok which is utterly emerald-colored and green-tinted. Naturally, it is only paradisal in the given context as allowed via Kola’s endemics, but its soothingly low pulse works really well and establishes a comfort zone. In the first phase, the Swiss producer manages to mould the perception of both movement and standstill in the undulating string of events. Later on, the glockenspiels and cyber steel pans are glowing and bubbling as usual, high-rise icicles and polar lights join their unison in addition to the attendance of nonentity which glints through the micro-pauses. Even though the melodies are once again etiolated, every tone is compatible with each other; instead of creating a willfully labyrinthine concourse, the drowsy uptown-downtown kotow wows.


The fifth track is called Habitat, and it is a chimescape if there ever was one. Even five tracks into the album, and the stringent pool of textures and patterns does not grow old. Here, the focus lies on the bells: templar, tumular, tubular, you name it, the surfaces are frilly and polished, all the while aqueous tonewoods and magnanimous moments of silence are reigning, the latter of which allow the listener to actually detect the clever amount of reverberation. An ardored harmonica-evoking melody interweaves pictures of the prairie, but apart from this inclusion, everything is aglow and translucent, or to be more precise: in a glass of its own. The antithesis to the silvery scheme comes in the liquedous gestalt of Petroleum, the darkest, most ferocious scapegrace of the album, not unlike a coarsing corsair. Sawtooth buzzes twirl in close proximity to a working blacksmith whose hardened steel hurls echoey bangs and clangs through the vaulted air. From the claustrophobic dungeon into the equally claustrophobic underbrush of a rain forest, this is the premise of the journey that leads from Petroleum to the grand finale Diaspora. Running for over ten minutes, there are yet again chimes and glocken aplenty, but that ashen one-note synth augments the perception of portent and uneasiness. There is something in the air, and it is dribbling, plinking and vesiculating. Kola has come full circle with Diaspora, as it aurally depicts another diorama of exoticism, coupled here with the interdependence of the bells and the independence of the fibers which retain their prerogative of interpretation… and delusion.


Kola is pure synergy, which, as the connoisseur knows, can never be pure due to its polyvalent structures. But describing Tobias Reber’s solo album as a purified synergy would be feasible. It so happens that Glitch meets post-Rave meets millennial IDM meets Exotica. The latter genre might be negligible and all too esoteric, but it is an astute and convenient marker for explicating the odd euphony that is the hidden golden thread of Kola. Indeed, there is not even one hummable tone sequence unleashed, let alone a processed sample of Space-Age strings or a synth-driven echopraxia thereof. As Glitch fans know, the wait for mellow overtones and enchanting pads is as delicate as their actual appearance, but here, Reber never succumbs to  vintage harmonies, not even faint ones. So the quirky, alienating concept of bliss is created differently… and elsewhere. It derives from – and is driven by – the elasticized tonalities of the cavalcades of bells, chimes and claves. There is an aura of aeriform freedom entrapped (!) within Kola’s time-related boundaries, and when I am stating that I love the consistency and flow of the seven movements, I have to explicate that the flow is bumpy, desiccate and more of a rivulet than a pompous fluxion. Staccatofied, with less legato washes than any Cool Jazz anthem of your choice, Kola is more akin to splinters, shards and scything flecks than meandering serpentines. It is even harder to explain why such a figurative hellion could be rightfully reviewed in the Ambient section of this website. I might be horribly wrong, but there is an ambience embroidered, a mellifluous phantasm that is only hinted at and by no means an actual part of the arrangements. And still, in lieu of its alkaline Glitch core, I rather absorb the far-away Exotica particles and tidbits, the faux-temple gongs, off-key hollowness and scintillating incandescence overall. Kola is Glitch alright, but once this is settled, you are ready to distill Rave, IDM (whatever that means) and Exotica (again, whatever that means).



Further listening and reading: 

  • Kola can be purchased and fully streamed at Iapetus Records’ Bandcamp site. 
  • Follow Tobias Reber on Twitter: @tobiasreber.



Ambient Review 285: Tobias Reber – Kola (2013). Originally published on Nov. 20, 2013 at