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Freewill - Quadrivium


Supposedly this album is a lost obscurity, having sat ‘buried’ since ‘the nineties’, as the press sheet has it. The cynic in me says that a release with an air of dusty mystique about it, with pretensions towards being discovered afresh as an overlooked classic of a homogenised and increasingly fetishised era – especially one nested in ‘exclusive’ hand-numbered collector’s packaging – has been masterminded (for want of a better word) by people who are aware of some current trends in marketing but have only the clumsiest grasp of how to achieve them. Perhaps it’s deliberate, because it matches the music perfectly. Nearly without exception, each of the tracks consist of second- and third-hand ideas, lovingly xeroxed and collaged into awkward and childish array, then subjected to such clunky production that any naïve charm that might have rescued the inexpert execution is almost clinically removed. 

 Behind the cheap presets and the dry, untreated drum sounds, there are the suggestions of some appeal in there – albeit the sort of appeal that depends on its parasitic relationship with somebody else’s legacy. ‘Isolation’ is a B12-by-numbers affair that would sit unnoticed amongst an ‘early-nineties ambient’ playlist; the chattering hats and melodic synths on ‘Labyrinth’ don’t so much recall as reuse elements from Incunabula; ‘Strange Lifeform’ is a braindance-style jungle’n’strings affair with the sort of plinky one-finger melody that says ‘I’ve got a Cylob album and I know how to use it’. Elsewhere, as on sub-Fila Brazillia churner ‘Quasar’, the album lays claim to a true calling as library music – sounds of the Sky Guide menu perhaps. This is achieved with more or less aplomb depending on the track: you could hear the bongos and ‘Summer Madness’ synths of ‘In the Middle of the Night’ soundtracking a montage sequence in Location, Location, Location, for example; ‘Crispy Bacon’ on the other hand, with its generic E Piano and synth-acoustic guitar motif, fits a far more economical Homes Under the Hammer calibre of production.

Which is the main issue with the album. Not that it’s soullessly derivative – which it is, but that’s no biggie these days – it’s that the production values do nothing to inspire confidence in exploring the music’s depth. The whole thing winds up like the initial experimental outpourings from a new piece of software. All of which makes the cynic in me wonder if this is a far more recent outing than all the accompanying bumpf suggests (and if the pitched-up drum hits on ‘Acquarium’ aren’t the result of Propellerhead’s ReCycle sampler then I will happily recycle my ears). But if I am wrong, and this is indeed a work of buried, ahem, treasure, then perhaps it should have been left interred – or at least allowed to stand (weakly, tentatively) on its own merits, without being wrapped in a dubious and annoying mythology.

Toby Bennett


Reader Comments (1)

Although I agree with certain points made in the review, and am not really a fan of this album, I feel that the reviewer makes some very uneducated statements, especially with regards to the production of the album. I agree, its production values don't stand up to other albums of the 'said' era...but there isn't an un-treated drum sample in sight....and, Propellerhead's Recycle software was actually released in 1995. I'm all up for good-bad reviews, in fact, I rather enjoy them. But for me, this particular review completely lacks substance. Similar to the reviewer, I don't like this whole fashion for limited, hand numbered, overpriced vinyl packages.... but hey, I find it equally annoying when somebody gets carried away with their creative writing skills and clearly hasn't done proper research. If you talk about something you don't actually know anything about, it will always be transparent.

April 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRick Nicholls

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