Review Summary: Kubrick's Cube set out to change how we see music. Whether or not they've succeeded will only be answered in time, but for now let's just enjoy a perfect example of ambitious, genre-bending electronic and acoustic wizardry.
Racking up 22 tracks and - if you enjoy your music in FLAC - over 900mb of disk space, the decision to title this release with such a grandiose name as Odissey
comes as no surprise (bar the deliberate spelling mistake to avoid the rather inevitable search-engine clash with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey). Kubrick’s Cube is a project born from one shared idea of 10 Moscow-based musicians: to erase the notion that music is something that can be categorised. For them, music has evolved beyond genres and styles, and with the dawn of electronics beyond even the studio/ live split. In their own words, they strive “to combine incompatible elements and go in search of new sonic territories”. It strikes me as quite ironic that this is now a fairly old-fashioned statement, but what can be heard on Odissey
is anything but. For once, it seems, such bold claims are exceeded, as Kubrick’s Cube have crafted something that sounds like nothing to have come before, yet will likely be echoed in thousands to come after.
As a result, it almost seems like a kind of bastardisation for me to dive for genres and comparisons in order to really describe how Odissey
really sounds. This is an album that seems very hot on its feet: the tracks will blend discreetly into each other but internally they’re quite schizophrenic. For instance, ambience will slowly tear and bleed with bass until it erupts into a frenzy of low frequency oscillations. Likewise, the frenzied indulgence of “Panic Attack” halts abruptly only to be hurriedly replaced by what can best be described as lounge-jazz. This semi-controlled madness only thinly disguises a very strong sense of continuity, however. You never feel lost in Odyssey, nor is any shift in style too jarring. There is a method to their madness in that they don’t stray too far from where they feel comfortable, namely trip-hop and contemporary bass/dance music. The album itself walks a fairly broad line between relaxed and more uplifting but it’s all tied together, in the nature of the album’s title, with a semi-space-age feel. The sheer length of the record allows plenty of room for the tone to slide between these two different ends of the spectrum, and with multiple peaks Odissey
is structured very much like an extended live performance: a satisfying reward for those captivated enough to stay for its duration.
Other genres such as ambient and glitch certainly make an appearance, but beyond that the swirl of styles makes it very difficult to pinpoint any concrete influences they’re drawing from. Even the use of vocal samples changes continuously throughout the album: from clean-cut spurts of soul to more urbanised, electronically caged samples. As a whole, Odissey
could really be seen as a melting pot for all the ambition and experimentation of the last five years: a kind of referential time-capsule for anyone in the future wanting to know what the cutting edge of music was really like in mid-2012. Make no mistake, though, while many individual elements may have been glimpsed before they’re compiled in a way previously unheard of. No one before, I think, has had such an affinity for blending electro-acoustics with surprisingly heavy dance music and gotten away with it with quite the same slickness.
As with most things this ambitious there are, sadly, a couple of teething pains. The opener, “I Saw Universes In His Eyes”, as an example, drops the listener in so deep that they run the risk of scaring off half of their potential fanbase. Apart from this, however, Odissey
is remarkably cohesive even despite the fact that it’s (a) so long and (b) involves such a large amount of musicians. It ends up as an utterly stark-raving mad dive through every electronic style that’s mattered in the last few years, while tearing strips from jazz, rock and pop along the way. At the same time, it carries all this with a distinctly fresh and unique style the likes of which will only be matched by a handful of releases this year. It’s bloody fantastic.