Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kindred - SubtractiveLAD


n5MD Records.

SCQ Rating: 71%

Following Stephen Hummel’s output as SubtractiveLAD is almost like taking a part-time job; it has a fixed presence in your life but you’re never quite sure where it’s heading. Sure, releasing seven records in seven years has allowed Hummel to passively expand upon (and in some cases refine) his emotive, electronic compositions, but each turn of his metronomic productivity has further subdued its reception. Entering into 2011, the announcement of a new SubtractiveLAD record could easily be translated as routine, representing a necessary glue to hold n5MD’s more anticipated releases in place.

As surely as its five massive songs debunk the appearance of an EP, Kindred also levels our middling expectations. Few tracks this year will shake one out of their assumptions quite like ‘The Available Light’, which opens with futuristic sweeps and distant chorals before escalating into a full-blown Kosmisch freak-out. ‘Hesperus Is Phosphorus’ takes a less bipolar approach, establishing serene atmospheres and then trespassing them with undulating Oneohtrix Point Never-styled noodling. These first two tracks, which could be EPs unto themselves, set the progressive, unwieldy tone of Kindred. The LP’s latter half finds Hummel employing the same adventurous spirit to compact arrangements (and by compact, I mean eight minutes instead of twenty-two). Nowhere is SubtractiveLAD’s peculiar direction more earnest, creepy and successful as when ‘Hello, Goodbye’ veers from its laid-back acoustics into a space-disco abyss.

These new songs operate like video-game narratives, growing from sterile repetitions to epic, arpeggio-stacked crescendos. Heady, uncompromising; SubtractiveLAD’s work has rarely afforded so many risks and rewarded so many backhanded accolades. If Kindred’s transformative fireworks lack the immediacy to grab new listeners, it should at least bolster SubtractiveLAD’s rank and reputation as one of n5MD’s most consistent mainstays.

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