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CD Feature/ Fluorescent Grey: "Gaseous Opal Orbs"

img  Tobias

Public enemies are usually associated with HipHop or Metal. Or, as the general opinion would put it, music performed by social outcasts for opaque niche crowds. Suddenly, however, there is an element of danger in atmospheric ambient, delirious dub, spacey sound art and surreal sampledelica and the revolution lives in spun-out collages of up to ten minutes' length.

This ambivalence is the outcome of Robert Martin’s wildly associative mind. In the past, Martin has released rap-spoofs on Throbbing Gristle (they were amused) and on Coil (they were not), played pranks on Autechre (they labelled his priorities “fucked up”) and on the American military (they discussed having him arrested). He gladly admits being a child, but thanks to a thorough understanding of the mechanisms of filesharing and peer to peer networks, his playground has been the planet.

Despite these Janus-headed laurels, Martin has created a musical universe for himself, which is filled with love, leasure and lounge-vibes, instead of cropped-up anger and aggression. It is easy to see why he should thank someone like former Napalm Death drummer-turned electronica wizzard Mick Harris in the booklet to his latest album, a man with an equally eclectic taste and a similarly colourful background. The fact that Harris’ name stands side by side with Alvin Lucier, however, means that one will need to dig  deeper to come to any sensible conclusions.

Luckily then, there is plenty of opportunity for digging deep on “Gaseous Opal Orbs”. In over an hour, Martin opens up the doors to a psychedelic bazaar, brimming with energy and filled with hyperactive beats, lush textures, cosmic reverb spaces and ganja basses, dreamy flute solos and creaking and groaning digital noise vibratos. Just as important as his arrangements, which float as effortlessly as a lost capsule in an outer quadrant of the Milky Way, is the weightlessness of its production, with elements seamlessly shifting in- and out of focus and heading off into various directions at the same time.

This multilayered sound makes the album appear much more relaxed and carefree than it is from an objective angle: Beats are nervous on the spheric Drum n Bass excursion “Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum”, hihats falling on top of one another and bass drums hickupping, while “Ayhuascaro Empyreal” is a world music rollercoaster ride, replete with tablas, bongos and rhythmic shifts which would turn any human drummer into a nutcase. “Molten Ghost”, a shorter and more concise effort, meanwhile, plays with subsonic sonorities and skanking offbeat pulses to arrive at an experimental instrumental version of Raga.

It is only in the middle section that the album really calms down, with three tracks of gently animated ambient soundscapes, dreamdub workouts and oriental groove collages. Here, Martin is able to make use of his third eye extensively, friendly forcing the listener to hear behind what may seem like the main musical motives to discover a network of interrelated micro-events, some textural, others rhythmic. The same can be said about the concentrated finale, “Fibrous Emeral Tendrils”, which opens moodily but gradually builds towards an emotional climax of thousands of organic convulsions and shimmering pads.

It is a trip which one should begin with track one and conclude only after the very last note has subsided into silence – for anyone merely eavesdropping on the one or two more obvious tracks, the greater meaning will probably be lost. Which is: Do not be afraid of this music for the supposed danger it conveys. And: Do not confuse playfulness with a joke. Even though it was conceived by a self-proclaimed child, “Gaseous Opal Orbs” is very much a work which wants and deserves to be taken seriously.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Fluorescent Grey
Homepage: Record Label Records

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