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Area - Where I am Now



Lacking the confidence that his soubriquet alone will incline listeners towards a geometric interpretation of his work, Area’s titling of this, his first full album after a string of singles and remixes, undoubtedly reflects the insistence of his intention. A dual intention, as it turns out: intimated by the ‘now’ as well as the ‘where’, the album is not merely an exploration of spatial dimensions, it is a search for identity in both time and place, an entry into the post-Euclidean geo-sonics of minimelodic techno-not-techno. What we find, however, is all-too-rarely inspiring enough to justify the investment. Perhaps the album should be retitled in the interrogative – where am I now? – as the artist finds himself wandering uncertainly in occupied territory. Not a great deal of the ground explored here hasn’t already been mapped out a decade ago by the likes of Apparat, Andreas Tiliander, or the Expanding Records stable – and more compellingly too. We know the drill: angular shards and slow motion droplets ripple and shiver amid a coalescent gaseous reverb, precision bass tones buoying the momentum along until fade and repeat. It is by now a household sound – certainly just as household as it is club-bound.

There are the occasional flourishes of personality – as in the juddering glitches that disrupt the airy groove of 2010 single ‘Cellicos’ or the slight atonality and oddly-timed bounce and heft of the vocal samples on ‘Missing a Few’ – where the ear is drawn more insistently than usual. But these are few and far between; more frequent is Area’s over-reliance on a few stock techniques (particularly delay) and faux-melodic adornments that provide just enough decoration to make do. In fairness, this is not much of a criticism: grandiose gestures and assertions of identity are hardly the raison d’être of (let’s call it) minimal electronica. There is however a tendency for the genre to become mired in debilitating compromise that saps it of either depth or direction. Much of the music here is nice enough while it lasts, a light and frothy techno d’ameublement, but unfortunately (particularly for an artist with such clear geometric pretensions), its scope rarely extends beyond the temporal boundaries of the track, or the spatial boundaries of the genre.

Consequently, the strengths of Where I Am Now are in those elements of the album that diverge entirely from the weight of its generic agenda, pursuing either a stronger dancefloor momentum (as on ‘Mass Conserved’ and ‘Moving Away’) or, conversely, a less functional outlook. ‘Mass Conserved’, sounding almost out of place amongst its neighbours, is the album’s true achievement – impelled through tone-clusters by a formidable hat-driven pulse, breaking off onlt for some artfully pregnant pauses, here alone do we get a real sense of narrative purpose. ‘Lag’, an example of the latter approach, is a Selected Ambient Work in the making, while ‘Slow Death Ghetto’, another, benefits from its plodding repetition, allowing the space in the track to take centre stage. These few instances indicate a more formidable and purposive direction for Area. Elsewhere however, the album is simply too pedestrian to make an enduring impression.

Toby Bennett


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