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Isolée - We Are Monster

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Artist: Isolée

Album: We Are Monster

Label: Playhouse

Review date: Jun. 9, 2005

Isolée’s first album Rest is a shoe-in for my favorite minimal techno record. Slick with cold sweat, running its fingers through electro, early 80s avant-electronics and micro-house, its preternatural balance of down-time blue and genuine anthem (“Beau Mot Plage”) still injects liquid bliss up the listener’s spine. Five years on, We Are Monster finds Raijko Muller so confident and articulate that Rest comes off in comparison like a set of hastily scrawled clutch notes.

Isolée’s music has always played with wilful perversity and errant structure, but We Are Monster magnifies that tendency, continually changing form, catching your heel and sending you toppling. It’s a structurally edifying proposition: Muller introduces new ideas as songs draw to a close or returns to phrases and melodies and places them in completely new contexts (“Mädchen Mit Hase” expands upon the opening track “Pictureloved,” but it takes a handful of listens before you realise). He dots odd one-off sound events throughout the record, such as the mobile phone interference that scratches its way into “Schrapnell.” This is microbe music, magnified for maximum impact. There is little like We Are Monster in circulation, but its globular, sticky surfaces are like a warm, celebratory re-read of Villalobos’ “Easy Lee” – the cold clammy skin of the latter making way for textural overload.

We Are Monster tugs at your body: its bass is tactile, ratcheted and glowing red; its sound is opulent. When Muller builds up a head of steam (in the later part of “Schrapnell,” for example) he taunts you with over-saturation before clearing the way, inserting lacunae into the body of the song. Sometimes these insertions are aporias, almost undoing the sense of surety you felt as the music gathered steam. We Are Monster is so vivid you end up watching sounds streak across your sensorium, following the vapour trails of various elements, like the gasping tremolo robo-breaths that flicker through “Enrico.” There is a weird instigative funk to “Jellybaby/Fish” that is compelling but off-kilter, slippery and reptilian. Ultimately, We Are Monster is completely lush.

By Jon Dale

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