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X-103 - Atlantis

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Artist: X-103

Album: Atlantis

Label: Tresor

Review date: Nov. 24, 2002

Back from the 90s and Ready to Party


Despite the anonymity of Atlantis no names listed, no information beyond the song titles it possesses a healthy pedigree. Behind the name X-103 lurk a pair of Detroit house legends, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood. Prior to operating under this name, the two of them were in Underground Resistance together with Mike Banks, after the breakup of Final Cut (though technically X-10- seems to have been a name they used for simultaneous work released on Tresor). Following releases by X-101 and X-102, X-103 was apparently the last time they collaborated, before each striking out on their own. There is in fact some confusion about whether this album is actually a solo work by Mills.

As this was originally released by Tresor as a 2x12" nearly ten years ago, in 1993, the re-issue actually runs a significant risk. Electronic music has evolved so quickly that a decade seems like eons, as many of the 80s front-line artists have learned to their dismay. It doesn't take much for an album of electronic music to sound dated.

In addition to that, what we have here is an instrumental concept album, intended to musically investigate the origins and disappearance of Atlantis. Of course, a beat-driven electro workout album can only descend so far into theory, and what you're left with in any case is merely a suggestion given by each song title that you can apply if you like. "The Gardens," "Acropolis," "Temple of Poseidon," and "Curse of Gods" give you an idea of your options here.

Tinkling metallic percussion, percolating synthesizer blips, and 909-style kick drum thuds have a way of placing this immediately in its historical context. There's a harsher side to some of the tracks here than most rave music of its time, but the past decade of sonic evolution hasn't been entirely kind to this album.

Don't get me wrong, though, it's by no means a lost cause. The ultimately straightforward four-on-the-floor kick drum programming does allow the synths and other percussion sounds to drift and add some rhythmic complexity. But on tracks like "Acropolis" I can't help but think that these rather robotic rhythms were a large part of what drum and bass rebelled against. The modicum of aggression here would have been all the more powerful matched with the comparative freedom offered by the more complex rhythmic possibilities. Here the tracks often feel somewhat bottled up, as though more wants to happen, but it can't escape.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's the interludes here that are among the most successful songs from today's vantage point. These shorter, atmospheric pieces aren't encumbered by rhythm, so there's a sense of breathing room and playfulness that comes through. "Interlude B" rumbles like a steam engine, while "Seduction of Europa" is a minute's worth of mysterious, quiet floating tones.

In the end, Atlantis will honestly serve as more than just a nostalgic document while against today's musical landscape it seems oddly constrained, it will nonetheless power a party, which is, after all one, of the reasons it was created.

By Mason Jones

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