His loud-ass work in Techno Animal and as The Bug in the late 1990s and 2000s (reminder: we’re now in the ’10s) makes it easy to overlook the fact that Kevin Martin has had a relationship with the quieter side of electronic music since at least 1994, when he assembled the crucial Ambient 4: Isolationism compilation for Virgin. AMM, Scorn and Disco Inferno can co-exist in his brain, so the low-key, inverted Waiting For You shouldn’t seem like a curveball.
Opener “Cool Out,” originally released as a single in 2008, could easily fit in as a subdued banger on London Zoo, but the rest of the album has much more in common with trip-hop and ice-cold electronic pop, like Colder and Tin Man, than anything going on in the dubstep world. It’s refreshing to hear Martin focus on subtlety and reverberations. His old-school Isolationism instincts would defeat the purpose of Razor X Productions and much of The Bug, but, when accompanied by the lighter-than-air vocals of Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi, they’re an appropriate and welcome addition to a label that typically only looks forward.
If there’s a complaint to be made, it’s that the album is too quiet and subdued. Martin has said that Waiting For You is an attempt to change the media perception that he’s only interested in sonic violence, and the album dutifully lives up to the promise: “Cool Out” is improbably the loudest track here, so after the opening three minutes, there are 45 that continue to switch out sonic for lyric and spatial intensity. It often works wonderfully, particularly in the great back-and-forth between Robinson and Hitomi on “Goodbye Girl,” where they conduct a break-up screaming match without rising above a coo.
Limitations can be freeing, but King Midas seems to tip-toe around a great deal of Martin’s artistic inspiration. The album successfully shows off an under-heralded side of his work, but it’s a shame that the sonic violence was deliberately repressed, rather than skillfully incorporated.