Review Summary: Structured in the breakbeat stylings of trip-hop, but with a strong ear for rhythm, Northwest Passage's New Era is an accessible, enjoyable electronica album which could easily forge it's way into many of the year's 'best of' lists.
This album just flows
. Surging through the pipes from the first moment to the last is a current which assimilates all the various elements of electronica, ambience, turntablism and trip-hop, all flowing in darkness towards the same pinprick light, until they all come flooding out onto a vast, blank canvas. The result is Northwest Passage’s New Era, an abstract soundscape of intricately detailed melodies and subtle but rewarding switches in style and temperament. This latest effort from electronic mastermind Pascal Asselin comes in a year which has been fairly strong for underground electronic artists with acts such as Bersarin Quartett and Beneva vs. Clark Nova taking well deserved plaudits. With Northwest Passage's New Era , Millimetrik deserve be added to that list.
Each track on the album seems to put a new emotion under the spotlight, fronted for by the appropriate instruments weaved together using the technique that best suits the song. Opener “Sournoise Supercherie” for example introduces a sombre rush, the piano keys hurriedly skipping to and fro only for the violin and ambience to slow things down and take the piano back to simple basic notes. “The Owls are Watching Us” on the other hand showcases a dark, twisted anxiety, paranoia perhaps, effectively interpreted by the static strikes of the bow on the violin, tip-toeing pianos and unchanging breakbeats. “Les Artefacts Du Futur” is a little more hopeful, airy drums and bright guitars float above a silky fluid ambience and, along with tracks like the laid-back, cheery “À Travers Le Temps De Retour” and smooth, jazzy “En Mémoire De Terror Et Erebus”, provides the light for the opposing tracks to maximise their dark.
The greatest attribute the album holds however is it’s magical but consistent sense of rhythm. When one section of a song ends, it clicks perfectly into place with the next, and continues on it’s way. In fact, clicking would be an injustice, too inharmonious. Think more along the lines of liquid gears, if they could exist. Take the penultimate track “Courants Intimistes”, towards the end of the song a rapid breakbeat accompanies an ethereal vocal harmony and shimmering ambience before the drums stop and the harmony and ambience continue. A drumstick seems to bounce of a drum, twice, before a new grittier, darker beat takes it’s place and carries on the song. Perfect, uninhibited fluid motion, a thing which is not easy to create, even in an electronic world.
Northwest Passage's New Era will forge a position in my best of 2008 list for a number of reasons. It’s instantly satisfying, immensely rewarding, surprisingly addictive, and manages to retain a great weight while still floating along like an empty daydream. Pascal Asselin can be happy with what he has achieved in Northwest Passage's New Era; an accessible, enjoyable electronica album which takes the listener on a beautiful journey without them ever having to leave the room.