Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: Protonica - Form Follows Function

Protonica are something of an unsung name in the trance scene. They specialise in a rumbling, bassy and drawn-out prog-psy sound that brings to mind the good old days of the early '00s when names like Vibrasphere, Human Blue and Son Kite were in their pomp, and progressive psy-trance was the refuge for many a jaded trance fan. Perhaps it's because this sound has somewhat died out in recent times, with "prog psy" (or psy-prog, or whatever) now signifying something altogether darker and harder, with names like Ovnimoon, E-Clip and Ritmo banded together as "progressive" psy-trance, even though I personally think all that stuff (entertaining as it can be) is essentially just full-on psy slowed down and smartened up a bit.

No, the prog-psy I'm talking about is the stuff from about ten years back, that all seemed to hail from Sweden, and consequently brought to mind images of Scandinavian panoramic countryside in drawn-out, deep and atmospheric tracks that went on for hundreds of years. Protonica's first album certainly had something of the outdoors about it, with track titles such as Ice Impressions and Upstream suggesting an album designed for long late-evening walks in snowy countryside. New album Form Follows Function isn't quite so evocative, but musically it's not so dissimilar to the Good Old Days: closer to that vintage '90s progressive house sound, but with the carefully designed basslines and occasional mind-bending synth twitches of psy trance. Tracks like Greece, Motion Control and Emerge aren't actually that long for trance records, but they unfold at a patient and rewarding pace, their slow and hypnotic bleeds of groove and melody feeling very 2002. But in a good way.

Form Follows Function isn't a spectacular album - there's no real structure that I can discern, the tracks all being so long and patient as to be self-contained journeys in themselves. There's also not a great deal new going on here, as the fairly wistful and nostalgic tone of my descriptive passages will have indicated. That said, this particular strain of psy-trance was fairly underground in its day, released through obscure psy labels and largely overlooked in the superclub progressive scene at the time. I'll wager there's more than a few kids who've got into trance, psy or progressive since those days who've never really heard this sound, and so are unlikely to have it tainted by over-familiarity. And I'm sure there are plenty of psy hippies out there still weeping over Vibrasphere's split who will welcome a new album in a sound that's died out to some extent. Form Follows Function could well be an album to take out with you as the nights draw in, the weather gets colder and you've got a craving for moody, drawn-out wintery dance music.

Genre: Progressive psy-trance
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 8/10