Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Music For Suicides - Stand Alone Complex

Music for Suicides

Stand Alone Complex
Arctic Waste Records.

SCQ Rating: 74%

Michael Lewis, the artist behind Stand Alone Complex, recently posted an anecdote on his blog that seems a fitting introduction to the man and his muse. Detailing that haunting feeling that creeps over many of us while wandering half-asleep in the middle of the night, Lewis is really disclosing his own ongoing battle against mental illness. That invisible but all-too-real menace that looms along the periphery of Lewis’ conscience also lies at the root of Stand Alone Complex, the electronic moniker chosen to address the darker recesses of his mind.

“Dark?” you say. “No shit – the record’s called Music For Suicides.” And yeah, Michael Lewis isn’t exactly beating around the bush with the song titles either; ‘Raped in a Basement Apartment’ and ‘I Could Jump Out a Window’ more than hint at the somber tone of Stand Alone Complex’s debut album. Of course it helps when those aforementioned tracks stand as two of the strongest highlights; the former a head-nodding symphony of breakbeats that turns to climactic chorals and pounding drums, the latter a groove-fest of warped keys and deep bass. Yet despite Lewis’ outlook caught between glass-half-empty and glass-pulverized-into-splinters, Music For Suicides balances its internal dread with some graceful, near-hopeful elegies. There’s a sporadic innocence at play throughout this hour-long set, channeling a sense of celebration in ‘A Lullaby for Gwynedd’ and colouring the melody of ‘Spending My Days In a Decaying Orbit’ (which might’ve bordered on elevator music had the buzzing synths and crushing beats not been there to contrast its purity). Even the building intensity of ‘Last of the Long-term Friendships’, which opens in bittersweet piano before arming itself with morose synth-strings, has an undercurrent of redemption to it.

No pretty flourish or warm tone manages to stay afloat for long on Music For Suicides and, while the apprehension clinging to these songs can be suffocating, the record is more impressive because of it. As a mood-piece, this collection’s darkest moments (ahem, ‘And the City Shall Burn’) are vindicated as necessary nightmares countering the more tender compositions. Perhaps best summed up in the song-title ‘Looking Up From the Bottom of a River’, Stand Alone Complex resides in a lonely, near-nihilistic place, yet the serenity of its views are equal parts cinematic and touching.

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