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Space Dimension Controller - Pathway to Tiraquon6

R & S

In the extensive annals of elaborate back stories constructed to disguise earnest but nerdy knob-twiddlers, the Space Dimension Controller bio gets a B for initial effort but an F for internal coherence. To recap, it’s the year 2334. The last remnants of humanity are scattered across the galaxy after Earth has been enslaved by a technologically-superior alien race. And there’s this interstellar border security guard, right? And he’s also a pan-galactic underground DJ? And then he gets transported back in time to 2009? And then the hype machine goes mental? And then it turns out he’s actually a personable young chap from Belfast? I give up.

I probably wouldn’t normally pay this much attention, but if you bite even a bit from Star Control you’d better match the greatest game soundtrack of all time. And luckily, on his scattered EP releases, SDC has carved out an impressive niche of deep, muso, impeccably-produced hitech jazz. Even shorn of Detroit afrofuturism and with the sharp edges rounded off, crotchety techno gatekeepers begrudgingly admitted that tracks like “Mercurial Attraction” had the chops to indicate a prodigious talent.

It’s a shame then that The Pathway To Tiraquon6 is a slight misstep; an occasionally excellent but ultimately frustrating work of concept over substance. And that concept is paper-thin. Something about escaping the aliens enslaving Earth or something blah blah. Suffice to say, it seems the hideous distorted gabba kick on album lowpoint “Usurper” might be sampled from the sound of respected speculative fiction authors repeatedly smacking themselves in the face with an iron bar to drown out the cliché overload.

It’s one of the electro-influenced tracks that let the album down. “Pulsovian Invasion” and “Max Tiraquon” have the dubious honour of being some of the least funky electro tracks I’ve ever heard, though the latter redeems itself a little with a warmer, swirling coda. It points to a sound that SDC covers with a deal more panache elsewhere on the album.

There are some diverting synth and ambient explorations (for example, “2257 AD”, 2 minutes of throb that leave you wanting much more) but three tracks in particular are parsecs ahead of the rest. “Flight Of The Escape Vessels” is fantastic; a meandering noodle that develops into a multi-dimensional analogue acid groove, reminiscent of “Nation 2 Nation” and complete with a flute and all. “Tiraquon’s Return (A New Home)” starts with a restless broken beat, morphing into a melodic deep house slow-burner. And “Confined To Deep Space” is a more sequenced take on the same blueprint, though still making use of the full space the quality production values afford it.

As the album ends it’s hard to shake the feeling that some patently inferior tracks have been shoe-horned in to fit the “story”, such as it is. But then maybe the best is saved for last, as the final quasi-hidden track announces that The Pathway to Tiraquon6 is actually a prequel to a full album in 2012: Welcome To Mikrosector-50. I can only hope that Space Dimension Controller drops the hackneyed SF, cleaves less closely to the concept, and concentrates on what he clearly does best: the music. It could be a classic.

Sam Stagg

Buy direct at Juno

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