Dusted Reviews

Astrobotnia - Part 01, Part 02, & Part 03

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Astrobotnia

Album: Part 01, Part 02, & Part 03

Label: Rephlex

Review date: Sep. 26, 2002

Boldly Going Where Some Have Been Before

It seemed only natural that Aphex Twin, having sired or refined some of the most widely circulated and copied forms of modern electronic music, would have gotten into the record label game eventually. And to his credit, his own Rephlex label has fired many a shot into the stratosphere of IDM, releasing seminal collections by artists such as Squarepusher, Cylob, and Bogdan Raczynski, all of whom share an affinity for dizzying beats mixed with subtle doses of quaint melodies and an ample supply of tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek humor. It’s nice stuff, mostly, and whatever doesn’t break the mold fits confidently into it, such as this series from newcomer Astrobotnia. Entitled, simply enough, Part 01, Part 02, and Part 03 (the middle release being a vinyl-only EP), these three albums offer glimpses at flip-sides of the same coin – equal parts drill-tempo beats, curious melodies, and hazy electronic programming spread out into three somewhat distinct parts. It seems almost like the work of that overachieving kid in the front row of class, desperate to show everyone just what he’s capable of. While it all falls into the “breaking no new ground” category, the tracks scattered throughout these releases offer plenty of beautiful sounds and taut beatscapes to wrap your head around.

Part 01 is the more pastoral record of the bunch. “Lightworks” begins with the sounds of fireworks shattering in the distance before careful beats and ghostly synth washes are added, nicely blurring the line between found-sound ambience and the kind generated by a Powerbook. “Hallo” mines similar territory, albeit without the fireworks display, twisting the ghostly refrains around to sound more ominous while the beat sputters about in the background, trying to eke out territory somewhere in the vicinity of Boards of Canada. “Everyone” switches things up a bit, beginning with a sample of someone baldly intoning “I want to kill everyone / Satan is good, Satan is our pal”, while the track works itself into a tricky blend of atmospheric sounds and beats that move steadily into more frenetic territory. “Untitled” sets an eerie string sample against a backdrop of carefully plotted beats. The sample is tweaked and spun around growing layers of delicate ambience and electronic blips. “The Wing Thing”, “Miss June”, and “Sweden” round out the balance of the album and reveal another textural shift, this time plying more electro-based beats and mixing in generous doses of carefully plotted keyboard and synth lines. This all ups the braindance quotient with delicate and supple melodies that are neither overpowering nor out of place. Of these three, “Sweden” has the best blend of what Astrobotnia worked so hard to develop on the first disc.

Part 02 of the trilogy finds Astrobotnia veering closer to Aphex Twin-style territory, filling these six untitled tracks with ample amounts of acid bass, broken beats, and space age sounds. There’s a few cheesey keyboard fills tossed around for fun, or maybe to accentuate the fact that these anonymous tracks are more for the dancefloor. The record works its way steadily into a darker territory with much harder beats, before letting everything go with the clicks and hops of the last untitled track. Out of all three volumes here, this is probably the least worthwhile at first, although you may find yourself increasingly wanting more if the volumes that bookend this one don’t quite quench your desire for Astrobotnia’s eletronic musings.

Part 03 is far and away my favorite disc of the set, mostly because it amplifies all of the ideas set forth on the previous installments. The tracks here are indeed a bit heavier, a bit spacier, and more filled with denser snippets of beats. “B” sounds as though it could have fit nicely onto the first disc, but it works well here to set the tone for what’s to come – more ominous keys and synths, hazier ambience, and foreboding beats. Things continue in this direction with “Acidophilus II”, which adds more scattered-brained beats and acid bass to a delicately swelling background. Hard when it needs to be, and delicate when it counts even more, it’s tracks like these that work the best in this series. “Esther calling Jennifer” is another tight sample of Astrobotnia’s talents – starting with a mutated vocal sample and then weaving in a windstorm’s worth of undulating ambient textures over a sputtering beat, before giving way to cavernous bass sounds coupled with freely scampering kicks and fills. “Bifidus” mines distinctly similar territory with similar results spread out over its four-minute run time. “Leftovers” is another great track as well, this time speeding up the beats and mixing them around a bit with gorgeous little snippets of melodic phrasing dropping in and out every once in a while. “C*nt” heads straight for the harder edged beats, providing a drilled out requiem before the album closes with the infinitely spaced out “I am Mr. P.”

All in all, it’s a fairly bold move to release three separate discs to start one’s career. And one has to wonder if such a strategy won’t come back to hurt in the end, seeing as you probably could have snagged the best tracks from all three releases, compiled them onto one handy compact disc, and then saved the rest as above average b-sides. It’s a classic case of eyes being bigger than the ears, with Astrobotnia wanting to give listeners as much as possible without realizing that three discs is two too much. Regardless, the material here shows a lot of promise for future work, and also provides a nice soundtrack for the present.

By Michael Crumsho

Read More

View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about Rephlex

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.