Friday, June 5, 2009

A To B - Miwon

A To B

City Centre Offices.

SCQ Rating: 82%

I’ve learned a few truths as a record-buying Canadian: (1) never order an album from a major-chain record store, (2) never pay an import-price for an album that is making waves on your end of the globe… eventually it will not only be available for less, but often with extra material, and (3) never expect to find a physical copy of any Miwon album at any store, ever. Having spent thirteen months hunting down Miwon (AKA Hendrik Kroz)’s 2006 debut Pale Glitter, I hardly expected his sophomore to land unexpectedly in my lap… and it didn’t. Released last November by the thankfully resurrected City Centre Offices, A To B finally found its way across the ocean to me this Spring. The wait was worth it.

Over a brooding bass-key and cut-up beats, a quiet array of birds can be heard chirping at the onset of ‘Shinkansen’, a track that wastes no time establishing an interesting contrast to Pale Glitter. Instead of Kroz imbedding his fresh soundscapes with the techno-speed thumps that characterized that beguiling debut, A To B looks inward; still forcing an unconscious head-nod from entranced listeners but digging deeper into texture and mood. His few previous down-tempo tunes – ‘Rain or Shine’ and ‘When Angels Travel’ spring to mind – seem positively experimental and alien in light of these new compositions, which provide one-listen proofs that Kroz has been working to perfect his style. From the spellbound cruise of ‘Matchbox’ - its ticks like a speedometer snapping, its echoed keys like the blurs ebbing passed – to the finger-picked acoustic window-watching of ‘Lillilullaby’ to the wet-pavement haze of ‘They Leave in Autumn’ (a song which, when heard on headphones, sounds immersed in distant, muddled sirens), one really can’t ask for a better title than A To B. As complimentary to night-driving as it is to daydreaming, this record showcases how atmospheric Kroz’s compositions can become, finally shape-shifting into the piano reverie of ‘Daylight Promise’; an instrumental of unfazed break-beats and wintry keys that shuffles brilliantly towards its close of far-off birds. Now I’m not about to make more of bookending one’s album with bird-sounds than I really should, but it is a deserving detail of Miwon’s evolution; A To B is more cohesive and vaporous than anything he has touched in the past.

As monotonous as electronica subgenres can be, it’s impressed upon me that Miwon has managed to craft his own sound so profoundly in just two albums. Admittedly, a reasonable excuse for Miwon’s clairvoyance could be that A To B doesn’t sonically distance itself enough from Pale Glitter (‘Kisses To Cure’ and ‘Round and Round’ would’ve fit nicely on his debut)… and that’s fair. But like Boards of Canada (who’ve also treated their sound territorially), Miwon is taking this second album as an opportunity to flesh out and dig into untested possibilities from his debut, and consequentially, he trumps it altogether. So if somehow, dear North American reader, you ever unwittingly discover a Miwon album, you know what to do.


You are my Symphonic said...

Very refined album with many emotions put together. "Another Term For" completely surprised me.

No real copy here in Montreal, I got the digital download version too.

SCQ said...

The reason it took me so long to hear it is because I ordered a physical copy, which needed several stops before reaching me. Yeah, I agree... more refined than Pale Glitter and a bit better.

I really wish A To B could be included on my year-end lists but no dice. There should be a rule against awesome artists who don't have international distribution releasing records in late November!