Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review: Spatial - Spatial

Spatial's self-titled debut is very much what I would call a pretentious record, and I personally am not a fan of the word "pretentious". Most people who use seem to be suffering from intellectual insecurity, and invariably it's levelled at anything vaguely arty or intelligent that makes the accusor feel a little uncomfortable. But Spatial's album is, for me, pretentious. It has trappings of artiness that aren't matched by the content. The (visually) abstract artwork and the (semantically) abstract numerical track titles are a red flag, and the very name Spatial seems to echo the rhetoric of early-20th Century modernist abstract art, or something. The music itself could also be called "abstract", insofar as that term could be applied to music (NOT as a synonym for "weird"). There are no live instruments here at all, and only isolated slivers of sampled human vocals, chopped up and deployed in typical dubstep/garage style. It's very difficult to discern anything in the way of structure in these stripped down tracks - most of them are just skittery broken beat rhythms with minimalist bass pulses and odd loops that are added and occasionally subtracted.

But, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no point to most of these tracks whatsoever. They drift by in a directionless blur. If this is supposed to be dance music, it's a horrifically sterile and funkless approximation, and if this is supposed to be listening music... then why? What are we listening out for here? There seems to be a trend amongst these self-consciously experimental techno/garage/omni producers to take dance music and just strip it down a lot until it just becomes difficult to listen to, this difficulty probably intended to make the music "challenging" and therefore worthwhile. I don't think it is. I think this is a fucking boring record for the most part.

Dubstep and the subsequent post-everything diaspora has always been quirky, weird music and Spatial has merely abstracted it out a little further. Congratulations. Such a worthewhile artistic enterprise. Most of these tracks sound like the idle creations of a child picking their way through FL Studio for the very first time. The sound design is remarkably uninteresting, the tracks explore an extremely limited set of ideas and the interaction of the various musical elements doesn't go past the most laughably simplistic of counter-pointing and the occasional bit of call-and-response. I imagine there are atrociously hairstyled crowds somewhere in London that actually dance to this stuff, but it does not elicit any notable response from me except irritation that I wasted an hour of listening time on it.

Genre: Post-future-UK-wankery
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 5/10

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