Due to an error in the matrix, the new Symmetry compilation The Other Side has already been available for a couple of days (and was shortly featured here). The new, actual release date is now Monday, the 22nd of October. Subsphere, however, was granted the honour of a listen prior to that date.
The Other Side, that is always where you are not. Yet to Symmetry label-boss Break, this is more than a platitude: for the bassiest schizo in the history of broken beats, it is a philosophy of life as well as a survival strategy, and he’s not the least bit fatigued to show that in this new collection of dichotomy.
The journey into the realm of opposites starts with a rather yearning piece of self-expression, Love So True – a track that simply can only be understood live. In one’s private living room, the honky tonk-pianos, ‘Oooooh’-escapades and discreet Reggae-relaxations are almost certain to cause only raised eyebrows and a frown. But in the club, when everyone suddenly starts loving each other (not in the full possible sense) in exaggerated empathy, and -vociferously humming along- start swaying to the music, entering the Musikantenstadl’s very own domain, one starts to feel the sense the track is supposed to make – in a way. (I guess in a time when Calyx & Teebee proudly refer to their audience’s sea of lighters these things happen…) Unfortunately, this excursion into foreign pastures is pretty much as good as it gets, because the rest of this completely schizoid track is not really convincing, and neither the delay-accidents following the sudden drops (-the first one is funny though-), nor the rather unfinished sonic scenery of reverberated congas and stuff can really help it, and the bass just cannot carry it alone. But be that as it may, an album simply consists of highs and lows, and starting with the latter might just be another manifestation of the conflicting nature of The Other Side.
The next -digital exclusive- track, Eastcolors’ Watch Out, is a gentle, fragile and at times a little haphazard journey through pale pink outer space. But despite its rather second hand approach in melody and harmony, the manifold sounds do pass with tremendous speed and all in all it is a fascinating track.
Again, Ulterior Motive’s collaboration with Code 3, entitled Yeti, is something completely different. Incredibly deep and almost devoid of mids, this melange of torn sub and a couple of nice sounds pleasantly reminds of the genre’s anchor point, Ed Rush & Optical’s fabulous (but you know) and vintage Wormhole album from 1998. Thinking of the white Yeti creature of Monsters Inc. by the way is not exactly expedient, but can anyway lead to some stimulating and entertaining pictures in the listener’s head.
The first real highlight of the album is Xtrah’s remix of Break’s Something New, a detailed half-time stepper, whose massive bass drum is seamed masterly by the plays of percussions, whilst the nagging bass bites through the various spaces of reverberation. Now add the mighty subbass to this construct, and the only real problem is that this tune too ends some time…
After that, it gets dangerous: the cheap saxophone line above bird sounds in the intro makes one’s ears prick up – there’s something wrong. And the moment the vocal moans in, one inevitably has to double-check the credits: but indeed, it says Octane & DLR; but it says Break too. But then: the drop. Alright, I get it, learned to live with the schizo episodes of the symmetric mastermind, just let the Pulp Fiction-reflex deal with the occurring trumpets and vocals. And the rest in and of itself is thick, alas a little shapeless (not to mention the cohesion). But there would have been so much more in it, and finally the title Power Down becomes the wish that presides over this arbitrary and raw piece, that eventually (and against Octane & DLR’s reputation and tendency) marks the anti-climax of this album. But that too seems to be the Other Side.
The mid of the compilation is conveniently marked by Prolix Third Act, as this act -according to ancient Greek drama- marks the peak of the plot. Admittedly, we can only assume, how Aristotle would have reacted to this Neurofunk-episode, yet I suspect he would have shaken the one or other of his antique legs. This assumption can also be based upon the latent old school tendency of the track, that of course doesn’t point two-and-a-half thousand years back into the past, but is not exactly fresh either. So what remains is a driving piece of music, which most likely will be forgotten in a year’s time, but right now shall be enjoyed thoroughly.
The next track, Break’s Who We Are, clearly poses the existential question of this torn personality: who are Break really? On the one hand, there is the emotional part, Eros-Break if you will, that likes harmony, piano, vocals, soul and emotion. But on the other hand, there’s Thanatos-Break, the evil spirit that is fond of bass, groove and driving drums. Now if there is (or ever was) a connection between those two I really cannot say, but it much rather seems we are dealing with two completely severed entities, and consequently the amalgamation of the two facets of Break doesn’t take place seamlessly (on the contrary).
And so this track fusions the utterly contrasting antagonisms only thus far, as one could for instance melt the scripts of Titanic and Event Horizon into one, with the outcome of a thrilling and enthralling ship-story. The rest is up to your own perception.
The second real highlight is the subsequent collaboration of Break with Silent Witness, The Hills Have Ears, and trust me when I tell you that the initial bass-guitar line and magically cheap synths function merely as othersidely preparation for a real monster of groove. Silent Witness (whom we insinuate once again to be at the height of his art) and Break prove themselves real masters in their taste- and skilful play with the bass, that includes some rather artful squeezing, punching and resonating manoeuvres, not to mention the occasional cuddling incidents with this fluffy and sticky wave mass. In addition they present finely defined, massive drums and a fascinating and vivid surrounding of sound, which altogether compose a truly great vibe.
Need for Mirrors Domo again can’t keep that up. Though deep and with some nice ideas, the shade of arbitrariness weighs heavy on this actually fine approach, and I wonder what might have become of this track if a little more work was spent vivifying the one bar of drums, reducing the predictability and getting some overall movement into the static riffs. But since the disposition is definitely there, I conclude that this will work out just fine. But not with Domo.
Dissolve too, the contribution of the quadrumvirate of Fields, Hydro, Mako and Villem, falls short of its potential, albeit for completely other reasons: But not only does it take the track half an eternity to make its point (which is hard with the classic drop round 1:30), even then there is either too much going on or it seems a little too random – it is, however, just not catchy. Also the assembly of the harmonies with the rest is – well, let’s just say it reminds of Break. So in the end, the quality of this tune comes down to the decision if one appreciates the piano (or Rhodes or whatever) insertions as cheeky over-the-top elements (or even takes them seriously), or demonizes them as strange and improper WTF-elements. The choice is yours.
The last but one track might be called an apparition to all those people who were a little disappointed by the last Dom & Roland single (or the one before that one, or the one before that one, …), for Mikal presents a more than appropriate alternative: Frozen offers it all, from the thick, essential bass, to the spartan drums that fulfil their purpose; and last but not least a great deal of care on the high end of things make this track one of the most consistent and interesting on the album.
The final piece on either digital, CD and LP version is Break’s Kicked To Death, Thanatos late and final victory over his emphatic brother. Yet it is less of a triumphant march of evil than a spastic danse macabre upon an empty grave; and one just can’t get rid of the feeling that Break needs his other half, if he is not to perish at the wear marks of his loops. Because after all, it’s all about the big picture, and Break’s contribution is -in complete inability or rejection of build-up and upkeep of a classical integral suspension curve- simply this grotesque bipolarity, that even from the deepest depths of the acoustical Tartarus rises with a corny vocal, always reminding the scared listener: there is another side!
So all that’s now left for me is to advise caution when approaching this album, for it may -as we have seen- tear apart the one or other expectation. Yet it does indeed -as spanning and contrary piece of art- in a way pinpoint a new frontier and an undiscovered country, where probably not everyone wants to go, but definitely just a few have gone. And that is where this album is at its best, in its uncompromising approach to take things further, in its utter will to reverse the status quo and see where it takes us: Regardless of the casualties, and with some casualties without regard.
Break, Code 3, DLR, Eastcolors, Fields, Hydro, Mako, Mikal, Need for Mirrors, Octane, Prolix, Silent Witness, Ulterior Motive, Villem, Xtrah – The Other Side (Symmetry Recordings) – http://soundcloud.com/symmetry-recordings/sets/break-presents-the-other-side/
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