Review Summary: More of the same electronic wizardry from the Japanese composer; just not as good.
Very much a continuation of Ikeda's personal style, Dataplex
is another concoction of sine waves, bleeps, scratches, percussive effects, and white noise. There are noises so high and low they're barely audible, some noises that ARE beyond the range of human hearing (in both directions) and that only succeed in adding some sort of wave cancellation, noises that pierce, noises that screech, noises that make perfect noise, noises that make no sense. The final track, "Data.Adaplex" (not a highlight, it must be said) even includes optical data that a lot of CD players can't handle; a warning about it is included in the packaging. As a pure exploration of what sounds can be made using just electronics and mathematical algorithms, and how they can be put together and juxtaposed, Ikeda is practically in a class of his own.
And yet, this wasn't what set Ikeda apart for me when I first encountered his music. What I loved about +/-
was how (for lack of a better word) funky it was - how the noises came together in a way that suggested dance music, rather than the walls of noise or sparse, meterless stabs I'm used to from avant-garde music. The parts on +/-
felt more like bodily movements than just noises, and because of that, it was actually easier to dance to than most of the dance records I like.
For the first 9 tracks, this was a big disappointment for me, because from "Data.Index" to "Data.Microhelix", this album doesn't deliver that aspect of Ikeda's music. Fascinating sonically, sure, but it feels almost 2-dimensional. You do begin to wonder why the hell you're listening to what is, essentially, a load of bleeps.
No worries though - "Data.Superhelix" kicks things off properly. Were this the opening track, and this album only 11 tracks long, it'd deserve a much higher rating. It's easy to imagine rhythms like this appearing in music ranging from The Prodigy to Dizzee Rascal to Four Tet. "Data.Syntax" is even better - its slow build is like +/-
in miniature, and it even sports what might be a considered a riff in the traditional sense (it has notes!). If more IDM sounded like this, the genre might not have stagnated. Sitting between them is "Data.Minimax", a return to the slight boredom found in the album's first 9 tracks. But, from there on out, the album retains its rhythmic instinct, settling into classic Ryoji Ikeda territory. "Data.Flex" and "Data.Reflex" see Ikeda stringing a rhythmic pattern through his music that almost sounds like a chordal keyboard line from the early days of rave. The exactly 10-minute long "Data.Matrix" follows the same rough idea as "Data.Syntax", moving through several changes and expansions on original themes, and it ranks as another album highlight.
An inconsistent record then, and one that requires a great deal of patience before it delivers. But what's good here is very good. It may not be on the level of +/-
, but if you want something different out of electronic music, this is a good place to look.