Sunday, 8 January 2012

Review: Aural Imbalance - Different Perspective / Intuition

Aural Imbalance Intuition
Aural Imbalance Different Perspectives
Taking a break from all that 2011 nonsense, I had a listen to a couple of CDs I'd ordered in physical form recently, both by Simon Huxtable, AKA Aural Imbalance/Deep Space Organisms/Concentric Flow/millions of other aliases. First up is Different Perspective, on Cadence Recordings, followed by Inuition on Within Records. The original plan was to settle down after a hard day's work with these albums and read some science fiction, as befits the glorious spaciness of the music, but after about 10 pages of an Adam Roberts novel I was distracted by multiple Facebook chat windows and have got no further. Damnit.

Luckily, the music sounds just as good when soundtracking Facebook as it does conceptual science fiction literature. Simon Huxtable, AKA Aural Imbalance, AKA Deep Space Organisms AKA the Illuminati Are Controlling The World's Governments Behind A Shroud Of Secrecy, is one of my very favourite producers. At one point his stuff was well-loved by John Digweed, Nick Warren and others, but then those people stopped playing interesting music and Aural Imbalance, Deep Space Organisms and The Entire Last Chapter Of James Joyce's Ulysses In One Go slipped away into obscurity. Which is a shame, because Huxtable made some of the most interesting electronic music of the last ten years.

Different Perspectie showcases his earlier direction, which is essentially classic '90s atmospheric drum 'n bass but spaced out beyond belief. Later on, Huxtable would move towards an extremely chilled out, near-ambient approximation of progressive house/trance, as expressed on Intuition. Really, though, the connection to either of these genres is extremely tenuous, and as time went on his music became increasingly weightless and ambient (although to be fair, he seems to have returned to more conventional dancefloor material in the last year or two). Really, Huxtable, AKA Aural Imbalance, AKA Deep Space Organisms, AKA Okay I'll Stop Now, makes space music that just happens to be influenced by '90s club sounds. Space music is a sort of trans-genre movement that goes back to the '70s and that focuses on music that (you guessed it) expresses the weightless, directionally expansiveness of deep space. Usually ambient, almost always hypnotic, space music done well is just about as good as music gets, in my opinion. And Huxtable's flowing, cascading, rhythmic take on the sound is some of the very best space music ever made.

Different Perspectives is both the older of the two compilations and the slightly weaker. Not because I like atmospheric drum 'n bass less than ambient trance, but because the tracks here fit conventional club paradigms a little more closely, and thus the music is just a little more earthbound. Additionally, this is more of a conventional DJ mix, albeit one comprised entirely of Huxtable's own music, and the mixing itself isn't quite as smooth as the music really demands. A couple of the transitions even sound borderline out-of-key, with definite moments of harmonic incompatibility that wake up the keen-eared listener and remind you that you're not actually drifting through the outer rim forever. The music is still fantastic though, building up a kind of weird invense space-intensity that reaches its crescendo with DSO's Differential.

As good as it is, Different Perspectives is just a trial run for Intuition, which is the musical equivalent of cryosleep. People love to talk about being "lost in the music" and all this corny shit, but honestly, four tracks into this album and it felt like I'd been listening for a lifetime. And I mean that in a good way. If you could purify the mental state I like to be put in when listening to music and express it in one ideal record, it would probably be this one.

Most of the tracks on this compilation were already available to listen to on Spotify, so I already knew I'd love this compilation, but hearing them mixed together into a 72 minute space odyssey was exactly what I wanted and unlike Different Perspective, the mixing is absolutely spot on for accentuating the music's qualities. Come to think of it, there would be no point in trying to read while listening to this music, because my eyes would just glaze over and glint with the light of a billion flickering galactic spirals. In fact, I'm going to stop writing this review for a bit and just doze off to the music. I'm quite serious. See you in half an hour.

...Okay, I actually fell asleep for 10 hours. Honestly. Having woken up, my thoughts are that Intuition is the kind of solid gold, perfect listening experience that only comes along a few times in your life, that makes you reassess just exactly how good all that other music you thought you loved actually is. There's a lot of out-there and weird music that I really enjoy, but don't always get the same direct, immediate hit from that I get from more accessible music. This is one of those records that I know is out there, but still sounds immensely gratifying to listen to. It is, without any shade of hyperbole, one of the best things I've ever heard.

Genre: Space music
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: Different Perspective - 9/10, Intuition - 10/10

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