…At the End Of It All
SCQ Rating: 71%
On a webpage dedicated to the artist c.db.sn, Tympanik Audio proclaims that the man behind that stubborn moniker, Chase Dobson, captures the sound of “the movies in one’s mind”. The association between electronic music and visuals has always been a failsafe one, in part because so much of the genre is instrumental, but at times that connection acts more like a crutch. Encouraging a descriptor like “cinematic” seems to imply that any perceived fault on the music’s part actually belongs to what the listener was – or wasn’t – looking at.
Thankfully c.db.sn’s work is less impenetrable than his choice of name. Dobson’s second full-length …At the End Of It All doesn’t need to lean on the “cinematic” tag but its mention does exemplify the variety marking several of these eleven tracks. From the dead-tech, car-chase vibes on “Data Transmit” to the glitchy, futurist’s confusion in “Artificial Intelligence”, Dobson executes adventurous, well-conceived ideas through a commonplace palette: icy synths, brooding low bass, and a friction-laced approach to IDM beats. If the Hollywood premises drawn from those tracks – which represent the album’s more aggressive end – sound clichéd, it can be partially credited to the 'soundtrack'’s been-there feel. (The rest I’ll take responsibility for, as I suppose it’s my imagination placing these sound environments. Not that the song titles weren’t leading or anything…)
Even “Artificial Intelligence” earns its rightful place on …At the End Of It All because of Dobson’s keen ear for sequencing; the contrast keeps things interesting. After all, when the record isn’t scoring some digital heist, it’s laying down atmospheric tracks that skip between IDM (“The Stillness of Hours“) and underground dubstep (“Seven Days Warning”). Highlights arise from this more song-bent focus; the title track dwells in a nostalgic groove of distant guitar and break-beats while “A Map Of the Human Heart” boasts some unexpected hooks in the form of recoiling beats and a distinguished synth melody. Mid-point track “Airport [Never_Land]” likely marries Dobson’s two approaches best; both the dramatic ambient piece grounded in piano and its title provoke rather than spilling the beans. Showing not telling – it’s the difference between a soundtrack reliant on visual movement and an album reliant on its listener.