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LABEL: Attack Records RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2013 GENRE: Acid, Minimal, Techno
// review by SoyBomb

Movie was probably not that great.

I (fairly) recently reviewed an old Emmanuel Top album from 1996, Asteroid, at random, and my reaction to it wasn't favourable. There was too much absence, too many voids left unfilled, too empty an aural space. Too many tracks were quite long with very little filling in them, like incomplete Twinkies. After 1996, he took a long sabbatical from releasing full albums (choosing to release nothing between 2003 and 2011) until 2011, when he finally returned to the scene. And in 2013, he released one more. Actually, two. No, ACTUALLY, he ended up releasing a whopping FIFTEEN unique albums in 2013. That's downright insane. I guess we know what he was up to during that near-decade when no more Top material was out. But, has his output changed any or improved any since 1996? Let's find out with the first of twelve albums in his "Soundtrack" series.

Soundtrack I begins with Foreigner, which creeps in with distant shuffling as squeaky acid tweaks reign us in. Intergalactic blips leads us further onward, and it's clear we're in for a strange journey ahead, though if this introduction is a signal of what's to come, perhaps things haven't changed much for Emmanuel Top. But next is Impressions, clocking in at just over 16 minutes. Water plops and light tingles push us forward as a distant alarm beckons and warns of trouble. A rolling percussive beat and a boarish analog bassline eventually make their way in for the main event, but it is relatively short-lived. It takes another while before another acid bassline sneaks in, and much longer still before there's any power behind it, choosing to keep it minimal for quite some time. Eventually, it becomes more of a squelcher, but it sure took a long time to get to this. Around the 11-minute mark, it begins: a high-pitched screech that only gets stronger but not more enjoyable. It sticks around for several minutes; listen, if you want to know what to do with squelching audio, ask Daft Punk in "Rollin' & Scratchin'". THAT was more masterful. We've reached the unfortunate climax of the track at this point, and all that's left is the winding down. My "Impressions"? A lovely soundscape, but far too lengthy and bloated for what it is. Elements take too long to arrive; what's the hold up? Some may say that I simply don't "get it", but perhaps there isn't as much to "get" as some may say and it's simply an overinflated project, a soundscape rather than a united idea, as much of this album tends to be. Most music fans won't "get" this one.

Minuterie, after the weird sound effect of a quickly stopping car (I presume), the track fills with a faint buzzing and some very distant percussive tones, alongside other various sound effects. This is not so much a song as it is a soundscape. Come to think of it, the album is "Soundtrack I". This could easily be the backing audio to a creepy sci-fi movie. Then The Snake Dance starts out with more standard thumping kicks and a couple of other squeaks. Two minutes in... and we're still in the same spot. By the three minute mark, we have an extra high-pitched shaker effect, and another soon after. A few extra sound effects pop in over time as additional layers. As time continues to progress, the beat becomes increasingly complex, though there still isn't any prominent melody. You're here for the beat. You're here for the darkness. If it's significant variation you're looking for, don't have high expectations coming in.

His next tune Déregulation leaps in spacily, eventually subsiding to a simple and light cosmic melody. But then, it hits: the oncoming army of gruff bass jitters. Finally, some significant power on this album! There isn't much variation as time passes, aside from the rumbling of a deep backing bassline and the introduction of a sharp creepy series of synth wails. It's definitely the most interesting track thus far of Soundtrack I. Following up is the 13-minute opus Risky Business. No, we won't hear any Tom Cruise in here, but we will get some discorded piano work and epic choir work, different than anything I've ever heard from Top before. It's certainly a welcome change. Top shows off his ability to use piano fairly effectively in loop form here. Gruff growls feed their way in as well to replace the piano, joined by militarily funky drum beats. This is a pretty well-shaped track, and despite it being a bit long for its britches, I have never been more impressed by Emmanuel Top's work than I have here. A must-listen!

With a heartbeat, we begin Evaporation, with a smidgen of tension as sparks emerge, as an underlying quiet deep bass growls, as the clap grows ever grander, as a weird shuffling effect crams its way in. The track is all about rhythm, rather than anything else. Is this what liquid sounds like as it's evaporating? Overall, not really a track worth hearing twice, or even all the way through. So why not end with The End? Starting with a bit of a wobbly melody over metallic scrapings, The End introduces unusual clicky beats and jungle percussions. It's a danceable beat, mind you, but it can't carry a 7-minute song alone. The melody does make its return; although it's not spectacular, at least it exists and automatically pushes this tune closer to the front of the pack.

As a theoretical tension-filled movie soundtrack, it works. As general home listening, it won't tickle the fancy of many.

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