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Christ. - Bike

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Artist: Christ.

Album: Bike

Label: Benbecula

Review date: Oct. 23, 2007

The enigmatic Scottish electronic artist Christ. (once a member of an early incarnation of Boards of Canada) is back with Bike, his contribution to Benbecula Records’ Mineral Series. What makes a Mineral in the eyes of Benbecula isn’t quite as easy to discern as what makes a Nugget or a Pebble, but it has something to do with a disc having a deeply personal feel and a homemade aesthetic. In keeping with that, the sepia-toned cover photo of a Scottish schoolboy riding the disc’s titular mode of transportation gives the sense that this EP is meant to paint a nostalgic portrait of Christ.’s childhood.

Bike (perhaps somewhat perplexingly) isn’t the first work of avant-electronic impressionism dedicated to riding bikes. Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France” springs immediately to mind, a classic thematic departure that somehow still fits perfectly into their robotic microcosm (even though it’s more romantic to believe that the band members fly around in spaceships or use jetpacks or something). An early Autechre track entitled “Bike” off their Artificial Intelligence series disc Incunabula offers eight minutes of rising, falling ambience that gives the impression of speeding down a rural road on a bike in the most early-’90s IDM way possible, with nary a single pebble beneath your tire to harsh your chilled-out demeanor.

Just by virtue of his stylistic associations, the latter example of analogue transportation-meets-electronic musicianship is closer to what Christ. does with Bike. Christ. (whose choice of moniker and punctuation renders him both fundamentally unGoogleable and completely baffling to grammar-check software) is known for modernizing and modifying the aesthetic of the early Warp Records catalog, and Bike is no exception. Here, Christ. updates things by way of going back to the days before the birth of glitch, re-contextualizing antiquated pop synth sounds among swirls of early-’90s electronic ambience and complex breakbeats.

The EP’s five distinct tracks flow into one another, telling a story, but one that’s loose enough to remain open to interpretation; just how evocative of specific scenes the songs are meant to be is up in the air or up to the listener (and might also depend on one’s knowledge of the geography of Scotland).

The EP begins with “Round the Rigg,” an upbeat track that combines the spacey, contemplative weirdness of Boards of Canada with the sultry intricacy of Autechre. Snappy yet unobtrusive breaks back a euphoric wave of layered, synthy ambience, while phasers and analog arpeggios swim and meander around in the background. This leads into “Glenbrook,” a more break-oriented track that features the reverberating voice of a young female narrator reciting a story, one that’s obfuscated by effects, kept inscrutable and secondary to the music.

Two other tracks, “Chopper” and “Gresham Flying Dreams” follow in a similar style (minus the narration), featuring breakbeats that vary in aggression, surging seas of electronics, and in the case of “Gresham,” a looping melody that sounds slightly like “Take Me Home” by Phil Collins. “Cycling Proficiency” falls between the two, a short, Selected Ambient Works-style soundscape constructed of quiet, ethereal hums with miniscule, bug-like twitters of treble wandering around on the surface.

Not incredibly divergent from the conventions of its genre, Bike is nonetheless eminently engaging, and filled with enough melodic hooks to carry its intricacies. Christ. might not entirely clarify the conceptual relationship between bike riding and electronic music, but he creates a non-specifically nostalgic atmosphere that could describe any number of things, youth and bikes among them.

By Matthew A. Stern

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