Saturday, 7 October 2017

Carbon Based Lifeforms...far from Derelicts

After a prolonged break (with the exception of some notable remastered versions of earlier albums), the categorisation-defying Swedish duo Carbon Based Lifeforms is back in full force.

Indeed, with their discography rooted in the more "ambient" side of the electronic music spectrum, but nevertheless often offering eminently head-bobbing-inducing tracks, too, one could wonder what the announced album Derelicts would sound like.

Instead of a departure into some stereotypical electronica, Derelicts is a 12-track album of quite some integrity and instantly recognisable as a CBL creation.

While Accede opens the album with that characteristic sound and patient development of hypnotically repetitive textures and sequences, CBL fans will be glad to encounter later on quite a variety of moods and tones...

Parts of Clouds or Nattvรคsen have references to, and echoes of, sound worlds first heard on World of Sleepers and Twentythree.

Equilibrium has that slow and rather irresistibly hypnotising rhythm one may have heard on the album Hydroponic Gardens.

The title track is really a stand-out piece, CBL at their most majestic and flowing at the same time, with deceptively simple, but anthemic, melodic progression lifting the track after its ambiental beginnings.

For a more abstract and eminently ambient sonic trip, Path of Least Resistance is a keeper - with a vast sonic landscape that reminds one of VLA and Twentythree.

One does not stop being amazed by the sense of melancholy mixed with majestic electronic soundscapes that CBL can infuse tracks with: ~42° is a perfect example of how the by now characteristic sonic elements are blended seamlessly by the electronic duo.

The structure of the album is also quite noteworthy, the soaring, uplifting tracks frame very nicely the quieter ambient works, plotting quite well a sonic journey through different states.

For example, 780 Days returns to the energetic opening sections of the album and lifts us out of the reverie, but there are no harsh edges and no sudden transitions - everything, as any CBL fan would rightly expect, flows very nicely.

Similarly, Rayleigh Scatterers and Dodecahedron provide melodic laid-back repose between more introspective tracks.

The mastering job done on the album is of a quality one would expect, the thunderous bass and percussion in tracks like 780 Days sit very well with the subtle and very refined ambient sonic elements.

This makes the album feel quite dreamy and light in places, even when the actual electronic sound palette is darker and more ominous.

CBL have found a very rare and specific register, like an elusive and mythical register on a mighty organ: Derelicts is, again, an eminently electronic album where technology does not take over, but from shaping subtle quasi-transparent constructs to processing sounds of thundering echoes of vast spaces, technology serves the artistic intent.

The result is, once again, a sonic world with a very personal touch and without the faintest sign of wanting to get lost in any commercial trend of electronica, whichever has been raging out there, outside the CBL sonic Universe, during the years that passed since the Refuge soundtrack album.

As the duo have reported in the recent past, the album would have been shorter but in its last creative stages suddenly a new track was born that simply had to be included on what has become a 12-track album in the end.

Overall, zero shortage of imagination again, and while keeping eminently characteristic CBL sound going through the entire album, there are no direct self-references - hence Derelicts feels thoroughly fresh.

It is a huge relief, that with the so-called "revolutions" (i.e. regurgitations of decades-old electronic music genres and style) like synthwave and such, some names keep looking forward instead of backward - and look at technology as a tool for creating new sonic visions (as contradictory as the term may sound).

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