Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Review: Intex Systems - Research & Development

Intex Systems Research and Development
Oh, I love this album so much. So much. And ASC is now giving it away for free! Strange, as you can still buy it on Beatport, but I'm not looking this gift horse in the mouth. Intex Systems was ASC's experimental side-project before ASC became an experimental musician in general. Back in 2006 he was releasing slightly quirky but generally straightforward and somewhat dull atmospheric drum 'n bass. Now he's doing this kind of thing far more regularly, but for my money Research & Development is still the single best thing he's done. Although I do like to play the entire Sci Fi Files series back-to-back and pretend it's one album, which is pretty much just as good as this.

Anyway... Research & Development is a densely constructed melange of everything James Clements was musically interested in that isn't drum 'n bass - which means a genre-blurring blend of ambient, IDM, techno, a little bit more drum 'n bass (natch) and tracks that genetically tele-splice all of these things into compositions that can be described no more specifically than "electronic music". Like most of his material, the album is very much sci-fi themed, with lots of samples from Bladerunner and Alien and other, more obscure places. The mood is quite austere and clinical, dark in places but also incredibly beautiful in others, the rigidly programmed beats and hard-edged circuit board synths making the delicately emotive moments stand out in even greater contrast. Basically, it's absolutely awesome.

I suppose to a lot of people, this kind of record sounds like stereotypical electronic music - extremely cold and inhuman and lacking in any kind of feeling. These aren't love songs. They don't "speak to you about your life". If you like, say... folk music, this album probably sounds like a future in computer hell. For me, this is exactly the kind of techno-futurist aesthetic I love. When I encounter this response to the music I like (on the rare occasions I bother to talk about my tastes to someone who does like folk music), I'm reminded of a quote from a William Gibson interview:

"When I hear critics say that my books are "hard and glossy," I almost want to give up writing... what I'm talking about is what being hard and glossy does to you."

It's pretty much the same distinction here. ASC's music is probably better defined as "sonic science fiction" because he explictly acknowledges the relationship between his music and concepts of science, technology and futurism, and his work can prompt you to think about concepts that we have otherwise taken for granted in a digitised world. Put it this way: this album actually speaks to you more about your life than any acoustic folk MP3 you downloaded off the Internet, uploaded to your iPhone and then chatted about to thousands of people simultaneously on your Facebook wall. For me, this is without doubt one of the best electronic albums of the '00s.

Genre: Sonic science fiction.
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 10/10

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