Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Etched In Salt - Tapage & Meander (SCQ's Winter 2011)

Etched In Salt

Tapage & Meander
Tympanik Audio Records.

SCQ Rating: 79%

Thought up as a helpful descriptor, ambient-techno remains one of electronic music’s great oxymorons, combining a genre known for subduing sound-washes with one designed to arouse our kinetic impulses. The label’s so hard to characterize, it nearly undermines the potency, the thrill, of finding ambient-techno actually done right. ‘California Blue’, the lead cut off Tapage & Meander’s Etched In Salt, earns that tag outright with calm keys circling a restless IDM beat before finally fusing over some orchestral chasms. Its crunchy, sterile blizzard evokes Pantha du Prince’s Black Noise, but that’s just the first track; Etched In Salt transgresses ambient-techno, as well as IDM and break-core, to generate a devious but soulful electronic mixture.

Much of the record’s allure can be attributed to Tapage & Meander’s craft, which discards the accessible lures of four-by-four beats or treated guitar in favour of deft progressions and a purist’s sense of adventure. Look no further than ‘Plankton’ as an ideal diving point, where reflective keys meet a flurry of acid-squiggles and hard beats. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow down their influences (ie: are these guys bigger fans of Drukqs or AFX’s Analord series?), but the primary muse behind Etched In Salt remains pioneering electronica far removed from most noughties’ trends. And when I say “most”, I’m excluding the duo’s knack for cinematic progressions, like the strings that reinstate ‘Oceanographic’ with an emotional core or the contemplative low-end that lends ‘Hydrostatic Skeleton’ some gravity.

With 2011 as yet unwilling to unleash a ferocious, risk-taking electronica full-length, it’s doubly rewarding to glance back at Tapage & Meander’s underappreciated 2010 effort. Unlike ambient-techno, Etched In Salt isn’t always easy-listening but it’s a crash-course in why those sorts of subgenres never die.

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