Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vade - Roel Funcken


Roel Funcken
Ad Noiseam Records.

SCQ Rating: 78%

The gears at work beneath ‘Gallice’, the opening track from Roel (half of Funckarma) Funcken’s solo debut, announce themselves like oil and water, colliding so dispassionately one could swear the song was trying to tear itself in two. Its toneless squiggles bubbling next to dreamy shards of melody may sound scatterbrained but it’s entirely ear-friendly, anchored by shape-shifting beats and a patient tempo. Showing no sign of strain between Ad Noiseam’s purist stance on experimentalism and Funcken’s cushy electronics, ‘Gallice’ weaves the first layer of an intricate sonic blanket that should no doubt comfort fans of thinking-man’s electronica. And while Vade operates on an uncharacteristically softer palette than most Ad Noiseam releases, Funcken lives up to the label’s refusal to settle for pretty.

Unlike the intensity present in Funcken’s other work (most notably Funckarma’s Dubstoned series), Vade explores dense pockets of sound that feel laid-back and cerebral. The serene keys of ‘Lyra Stellum’ become more alien with each ricochet off its structure’s caved walls, no differently than how the acid-squeals peppering throughout ‘Vertox Dreaming’ get increasingly rougher thanks to some heavier elasticized beats. Funcken rarely lets a song float by on its own momentum and, while that gives his dreamier material like ‘Ledge’ some visceral awareness, it also doesn’t spoil Vade’s chilled-out spirit.

As enigmatic and relaxing as ‘Daze Flextone’ and the lot are, Funcken knows when to infuse some aggression to keep this LP’s seventy-minute runtime from falling asleep. ‘Halfkriel’ jumps heartily into Aphex Twin styled drill-n-bass, ‘Martyrz’ replicates some big-beat dynamics of The Chemical Brothers circa 2002, and ‘Spi Trade’ blenders up some vaguely industrial sounding techno. Often cold and convulsing, Funcken’s heavier fare can drag its feet – particularly on ‘Lajor Mazer’, which sounds like the Jaws theme performed by grimey synth-saws – but every track here champions Funcken’s worldly techniques in different lights. What isn’t subtly breathtaking is still impressive.

Earlier I described Vade as “thinking-man’s electronica”. I wasn’t sure what I meant by that but it still feels right. And maybe I’m just looking for an alternative, less-awful way to infer IDM… what 90s snobs defined as Intelligent Dance Music. Despite the ridiculous implications of such a title, IDM has managed to stick around courtesy of mind-bending albums like Vade that require serious armchair time in order to appreciate the many aural complexities. By resisting the urge to repeat itself and bridging electronic genres in wholly bizarre ways, Vade deserves a generous-to-the-point-of-pompous tag like IDM. Despite its heavy, demanding course, one couldn’t ask for much more from Roel Funcken; I, for one, might ask in the future for a little less.

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