WINTER NORTH ATLANTIC - A MEMENTO FOR DR.MORI (Boltfish)
This album is dedicated to Dr Masahiro Mori, a Japanese scientist who observed that our emotional response to non-human entities such as humanistic robotics only went so far, and afterwards became somewhat disturbing, with the idea that we should not attempt to replicate ourselves. Ed Carter takes organic instrumentation and underscores them with electronic editing and treatment, producing a somewhat ambiguous 35 minute album that weaves in and out of emotions, touching on a few genres along the way. Like Mori’s theory, subtle twists and inflections with edits make for a slightly unsettling listening experience at times. I’m always hesitant to apply common epithets to music that makes a real effort to sound unique, but fans of Thrill Jockey material and the more pastoral aspects of UK folktronica (a truly ghastly term) will find much to savour here on an album that displays much sophistication.
The 11 songs all have a lilting, shifting ambience to them, and Carter seems to revel in trying to find that narrow path between disquiet and genuine elation, his production skills finding little tweaks in the sound field that often makes for somewhat hallucinatory listening. At times, like on “Fall of Stone”, ukelele and very subtle accordion compete for space with a shifting drumbeat, with matters verging on becoming pyschedelic before coming to an abrupt end. None of the songs on here venture longer than 4 minutes or so, and if there is a little criticism, it’s that sometimes they finish without developing an extra layer of emotional richness. Tracks like “Cuts and Tears” don’t develop a great deal beyond the initial concept, but when put together, they help to build a listening experience that is both unsettling and fascinating.
Carter’s choice of instrumentation and production skills have created a glistening sound world that grabs your attention; the sharp, gallic turns of “Bokor” contrasting with the Rhodes-inspired groove of “Kinay 816”. It’s a shame that we don’t hear vocals until the final track on “Barrel Organ”, which closes the album on a high note, but this again is but a minor complaint.
Boltfish, who I often feel tend to veer too close to meandering IDM sometimes, have produced a little gem here - this is a smart, unusual album which takes a interesting concept and applies it with deft skill.