Historically, electronic music has been all about progression, as one genre replaces another in a war of attrition. Until recently, there has been a tendency for every electronic genre to become more hyper-real -the musical equivalent of CG and the uncanny valley - as can still be witnessed by perusing the Beatport charts.
Like a movie made entirely out of CG, these uncanny, unreal sounds tend to slide right over the ears, never connecting, never relating. These sounds have never felt the raw, rough molecules of the air. Our mammalian nervous systems revolt, sensing artifice.
Because of this, there has been a retroactive motion in the last decade, as producers return to sounds and production styles of the past, like the roughhewn styles of the industrial techno of Downwards Records, or the renewed fascination with hardware mangling and acid styles.
Simpleton, the second full-length from Rhode Island producer Paul Leon Anderson, blends the molecular control of digital production with organic sounds and archaic electronic styles - from the cut-ups of musique concrete, to the ambient minimalism of Brian Eno, to the '90s cyber-dystopia of acts like Future Sounds Of London. Anderson's musical collages are like watching sculptures of steel and twine dance and twirl in some dark cave or perhaps a rundown factory.
Simpleton is no academic sound experiment, however. Anderson has a keen musical ear and a commendable sense of restraint. The weightless synthesizers have a sense of mournful melancholy, a feeling of expansiveness and loneliness that is on the level with Eno's masterful Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks and Anderson's beloved Autechre and Boards Of Canada. This is no clever anachronism, though, as these tones and textures are underpinned with glitched out beats that are entirely contemporary, like Burial or the avant-beat sculptures of Planet Mu records.
Anderson has achieved the nearly impossible, with Simpleton - a record that is both organic and digital; both emotional and intellectual. The real-world origin of these sounds are more adept at conjuring interesting images than 1,000,000 generic drum 'n bass singles which, frankly, don't need to exist. Simpleton is an antidote to the ennui of postmodern musical burnout.
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