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Halogen: "Baked"

img  Tobias

Black Metal, Dark Metal, Death Metal, Drone Metal, Doom Metal, Industrial and Noise – there is a considerable abount of pent-up aggression on the experimental music scene at the moment. So it's up to Adam Janota-Bzowski to write the love songs. Aptly composed „above the Biscuit Studio“ in Hove, his intuitive Electronica makes you think of milk and cookies straight away, of honey, cinnamon and long warm baths in the wintertime. Tracks are like wordless poems, harmonies like the scent of perfume on letters never meant to be sent. Melodies feel delicate and starry-eyed, lost in a cosmos of tender desires for which there is no release. Ticktacking machinal rhythms hum and whir like the dusty cogwheels of a nostalgic music box, spinning you round and gently confusing your senses. Like a mirror-world of longing and yearning, everything is sublimated into pure and unperturbed emotion here: Even the train carriage rolling through the short title track sounds atmospheric and comforting, as though it were taking you straight to the heart of the night, where sleep awaits and dreams beckon.

Unsurprisingly, typical genre-definitions fall short in such an environment. It is telling that Halogen has occasionally been characterised as Intelligent Dance Music despite feeling more like underwater ballet than a stint at the clubs. Vice versa, it wouldn't seem out of place defining it as an Ambient project, although there is a discreet yet distinct percussive pulse underpinning almost every single track here. Janota-Bzowski has cited Steve Reich as an influence and even though his floating four-minute fantasies don't share any obvious similarities with pieces like „Drumming“ or „Music for 18 Musicians“, he, too, enjoys enriching his steady metrums with stimulating irregularities and variations, such as in the coda to „Redux“, in which distorted, doubled and delayed snares, hihats and crackle are painting luminescent images in the air like red-hot sparks dancing on top of a fire.

But unlike Reich, to whom rhythm is „it“, „Baked“ is much more about texture, layering and arrangement, about the way elements constantly interact, change and permute over the course of a track. Although its gentle contours and warm, sensual sound appear ideal for background enjoyment, the true power of this album in fact only reveals itself through attentive listening and, even more importantly, on headphones: The bittersweet Leitmotif of „String Theory“, for example, is mixed back behind the drum track, but drenched in cathedral reverb – a combination which lends the piece both an air of majesty and intimacy. On „Ohmu“, Janota-Bzowski's interest in HipHop comes to the fore, the beats rolling slowly and seductively, but with a recognisable urban flair. The soft sequencer lines of „Millicent“, meanwhile, merge organically with two deep Bass notes, creating a sensitive and sexy flow.

Pieces are short, but they're neither miniatures (because they're never aimed at a punchline), nor sketches (because they're far too detailed for that). Rather, these ten concise compositions minimalistically made up of just a few basic tracks per tune manage to sound both open and entirely self-sustained. Sometimes, it feels like the producer had fallen asleep in the studio and his tracks were playing themselves, knobs being turned by invisible fingers, keys being pressed by weightless hands, loops spinning themselves into infinity on their own accord. Somewhere in the 90s, this combination of robotic beats and human resonance would probably have been a small sensation and on top of everyone's end of the year lists. A mere decade later, however, it still sounds completely up-to-date. Even if it weren't, though, there's still be nothing wrong with that at all. The music scene is full of aggression and unwanted experiments and sometimes a timeless collection of wordless electronic love songs is all you need.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Halogen
Homepage: Maternity Media

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