Integral rewrote three times from scratch their debut album over the span of seven years before we could have Rise
as it is. This obsession to detail and perfection sums up what the German duo of David Rotter and Rafael Milatz is about, but it also implies that a lot of work will not see the light of day. For their second album they chose to gave us the insight of Integral's sound development before letting us know what they have in store for the future, something that may take as well another seven years. The Past Is My Shadow
is a compilation of more than two hours of unreleased material that let those who enjoyed Rise to explore the depth and progression of their sound.
This immodesty from a band with only one record is not of out of place, nevertheless. Approaching their forties and writing music for a minority which probably has not even heard their debut, they do not care too much about conventions. Still, The Past Is My Shadow
is too much to take by any standards, especially when Integral has no hurry to get their point through. Most of the compositions here approach the style found on Rise
, but lacking the unity and flow that gave that album a sort of mysticism, the tracks become islands that are better suited for alternate listening sessions. The soundscapes exist and progress in the darkness, sustained by beats that make feel its presence but refuse to take center stage, relying in Integral's ability to manipulate and assemble the elements until the mix is tempered and polished, so the thrill ultimately comes from the way each track sounds and is presented to the listener.
Integral are not interested in originality, rather Rotter and Milatz finds their pride in perfectionism and patience. Their music will not impress anyone on first listen, since the subtleties that heighten the compositions do not reveal themselves instantly, requiring almost the same amount of patience from the listener. This stress on detail and depth sacrifices vitality and urgency; coldness and calculation reign over emotion and inspiration, actively ascending to the abstract and descending only to retain evocativeness. For if the album has a charm it is precisely how it feeds the imagination through this refinement of sound, creating and exploring moods without the need of emotion. Whereas artists like Subheim uses atmosphere to bring peace and reflection to the mind, and others like Geomatic use rhythm to seduce the senses into the realm of the strange, Integral plays with both ends just for the pleasure of bringing into life something that will lure the mind by its lushness. In its own way, there is fun and joy to be found, but it is of another kind.