SCQ Rating: 76%
Its synths sound sharper and the vocals sound a tad more processed but, with open-armed opener “Phoenix”, Stephen Hummel’s new project bears a bizarre-o resemblance to M83. Branching off with an electro-pop compass, the man behind subtractiveLAD finds sensuous vocals and massive synthesized anthems at the heart of Meld, ones that would rightly appeal to fans of Anthony Gonzalez’s dreamy oeuvre.
This first release under his birth name marks a significant change of pace for Hummel, whose subtractiveLAD work typically eschews vocals and last left us in the expansive, industrial tizzy of Kindred. While remaining true to Hummel’s bold experimentation but fitting a pop framework, Meld leaps into an emotive world of deep percussion and sparkling synth workouts. Occasionally the song-cycle feels too heavy to digest over a single sitting, as if the multitude of layers building “Birds” and “Forever” are competing for equal attention. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this writer has discovered that Meld’s constant busyness only wears thin when played over basic computer speakers; when listened to on headphones, Hummel’s exhaustive approach pays off with a dedication to detail that most fringe-dance records would prefer to loop over.
Highlights such as “Away” and “Beautiful”, in particular, remain saturated in evolving progressions and soaring melodies but the physicality of their construction outweighs most dream-pop outings I’ve heard so far in 2012. Besides his vocal-assisted tracks, Hummel really hits his stride with ambient-leaning mood pieces like kosmische choral “Wait” and the Tycho-reminiscent “Sunshine”; both tracks the sort that’ll make longtime subtractiveLAD fans get behind this promising u-turn.