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Mark Fell - Sentielle Objectif Actualité

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Artist: Mark Fell

Album: Sentielle Objectif Actualité

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Oct. 4, 2012

One of the things I find most appealing about Mark Fell is how forthright he’s been with his motives as an artist, both solo (under his birth name and as Sensate Focus) and with Mat Steel as the long-running IDM headache-inducers SND. A recent RBMA interview is a good example of how candidly he can balance processes and the underlying theory behind them. It’s encouraging to see how little he cares about his audience’s reaction in a day and age when DJs and producers are more obnoxiously pandering (and prevalent) than ever. You get the impression that the guy just can’t not make music; everything else — fans included — is happenstance.

That ostensibly holds for at least a little while on Fell’s latest solo work for the venerable Editions Mego imprint, Sentielle Objectif Actualité. A cursory listen fits the easy, expected narrative that Fell is trying to test the limits of his equipment with generative rhythms and busy percussion on a set of songs he already released in earlier forms as three 12”s earlier this year. What’s different is how even a handful of repeated listens reveal this strikes more of a balance between the coldly impenetrable techno of SND and the warped house of Sensate Focus. In keeping with his recent spate of releases (that’ll be five LPs in the last two years, then), the audience isn’t left completely out of the picture.

“SOA 1” gives little away as an opener. At nearly eight minutes, you’re still left thinking that Fell is focused on trying to throw you off. The light synth loop giving way to a melody less than two minutes from the end appears almost incidental, an afterthought or a pleasant byproduct of everything else happening in the song. It’s almost got an Italo vibe in the sound of the synthesizers, but the rhythms are miles away.

“SOA 2” strikes a different chord. The lush house synth that opens it up immediately separates it from the oppressive “SOA 1” and sets the stage for the album’s remaining handful of songs. The handclaps of “SOA 4” and “SOA 5” are also recognizable in a techno setting without settling into an overt 4/4 beat. The spaciousness of “SOA 5” pushes the envelope further by being the most approachable song on the record.

That kicks off a concluding trio that pulls the least punches and holds the steadiest rhythms of any set of Fell songs I’ve heard. “SOA 6” is a pleasure button-pushing half-speed cruiser that I could see easily fitting in late in a house set, and “SOA 7” is an airy ending that succeeds in sending Sentielle Objectif Actualité out on a high note.

In these songs, it’s almost baffling to think that Fell is the same guy behind SND — the sounds are recognizable, but the hassle of head-bobbing has been removed. It feels easy, and not just because Editions Mego provides “recommended contextual materials” and “additional DJ notes for playback synchronization.” The temptation to move to these songs is unequalled in his catalog and, consequently, the willingness to engage the material (and artist) in a positive way also makes Sentielle Objectif Actualité a unique challenge of a very different kind.

By Patrick Masterson

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