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Monolake - Silence

MONOLAKE - SILENCE (Imbalance Computer music)

Monolake are, to put it mildly, legends. Since a series of seminal mid-90s releases on Chain Reaction, the group has produced broadly influential electronic music, bringing together minimal techno, dub, drum n’ bass and modern classical into a cohesive and inventive style.  Not only that, its founders—Robert Henke and Gerhard Behles—have been instrumental in the development of the groundbreaking software suite Ableton Live, now industry standard for electronic dance musicians.  There are, in short, few electronic acts that can claim such a central role in the development of the genre.

Given that, expectations for any new Monolake record, now fronted by Henke and Torsten Pröfrock, are suitably high. ‘Silence,’ the new album on Henke’s Imbalance Computer Music, does not disappoint.  Moody and industrial, it is a technical marvel that displays the artists’ production abilities and musical range to dazzling effect.  ‘Silence’ is also an album that demonstrates how far dubstep has come.  Tracks like “Null Pointer,” “Far Red” and “Avalanche” present listeners with sub-basses, tricked out rhythms and big reverbs that would make Burial proud.   

Henke and Pröfrock manage to avoid the sub-genre pigeonhole, though. Opener “Watching Clouds” is vintage Monolake, pairing a sparse and dissonant melody with deep, muted kicks and frenetic metal clangs.  “Shutdown” centers on an insistent tribal rhythm, surrounded by metal bells and punctuated by dark synth pads and reverb-laden flute melodies.  The effect is hypnotic, a sort of post-apocalyptic gamelan.     

The album’s softer moments provide more highs.  “Void” offers listeners a slice of blissful ambient, which comes as a welcome respite from the album’s overwhelmingly dark thrust.  “Internal Clock” is an exquisite polyrhythm, resplendent with warm synth pads and a cascading, cimbalom-like melody.  Album closer “Reconnect” is, perhaps, even better.  Here Henke and Pröfrock put all their tools on display, reconnecting the album’s industrial/dubstep preoccupations with the machine-horror ambiance of Sandwell District and electro-acoustic flourishes reminiscent of the Ostgut Tonträger canon.  It is also the most DJ-friendly track on “Silence.” 

All in all, “Silence” is an impressive effort with enough depth to draw in a diverse set of listeners: fans of minimal techno, dubstep and electronica will all find something familiar.  At the same time, those seeking something genre-specific, or a collection of dance tracks, may want to look elsewhere.  “Silence” also requires a good deal of patience and a predilection towards the dark and atmospheric.  Given an open mind towards such aesthetics, listeners will be well rewarded by this complex, genre-bending album. 

Gustav Brown


Reader Comments (2)

Picked this up today and it is everything I'd hoped for and more.
Gorgeous sounds and rhythms, beautifully conceived and executed.
Crystalline and delicate, authoritative and brooding - a fantastic release and every track a winner.
'09 has been a great year for exceptional music, and although only very fresh releases, this, and Die Faser, lead a very high quality charge; For me at least.

December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPete Srdic

Humm... interesting,
The music sounds great,
Thanks for writing, most people don't bother.

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