Gatekeeper
Exo


4.5
superb

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
July 21st, 2012 | 54 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Long live the new flesh -- every stainless, mechanical, impenetrable, perfectly molded piece of it.

Ed Banger is passé. Crystal Castles is mindless. Sleigh Bells is Gwen Stefani taken to a logical, puerile extreme. M.I.A. has gone off the deep end. Deadmau5 and Skrillex are for sexually overcompensating gorilla lax bros. If any or all of the above statements apply to you, Gatekeeper have an album for you, one that is filthy yet unabashedly hi-fi, gloriously unsubtle yet keenly intelligent, dated yet highly zeitgeisty. Exo is industrial acid big beat shot with a streak of Xbox (it is accompanied by a specially designed first-person gaming environment) and a dash of good humor. There's nothing quite as knowing as "Optimus Maximus" here -- in fact, a lot of these songs are admirable for their dead seriousness -- yet there's a brazenness to this album that can only be accompanied by some winking self-awareness.

Good thing, too, because then Exo's ambition sneaks up on you. Gatekeeper's commitment to a sound that is "objectively" rather goofy is certainly right on trend -- it's no surprise that DIS Magazine, arguably the most important and relevant publication of our age, has hailed the album as a new masterpiece -- yet it also transcends ephemerality. The biggest tracks here are heavy and effective enough to serve as alt floor filler for years to come, while the interludes successfully establish a fully-formed sonic environment that will be happily familiar to anybody who wore out their copy of Frank Klepacki's Red Alert soundtracks. "Exolift", "Vengier", "Aero", and "Encarta" are all good enough to satisfy people for whom my opening slew of opinions doesn't resonate at all, their harmonic sensibilities distinct yet strangely familiar. As is the case with so much music to emerge from our post-everything pop landscape, I'm reminded of Ryan Trecartin's work -- I get the vague sense that I've heard this stuff before, even though I haven't. It's "relevance" minus the easy game of "spot the references". Gatekeeper's sonic predecessors are obvious yet disparate, and what makes the duo's music so striking is the resultant fusion of all these influences. It's futuristic, but not off-puttingly so -- post-human music that appeals to those mystified by Laurel Halo's purposefully sterile vulnerability or left cold by Claire Boucher's '80s-by-way-of-alien-communication productions.

Of course, I'm hopelessly enamored of all those artists' 2012 efforts, but they're an incredibly diverse trio. Visions, Quarantine, and Exo all deal with similar themes of identity post-Web 2.0, filtering that intimidatingly wide subject matter through very distinct aesthetics. If Grimes is the most crowd-pleasing of these aesthetics, Gatekeeper is the most visceral, enveloping listeners in a world of stainless brushed steel and proceeding to throw the maddest, stirringest rager ever in that frighteningly mechanical space. Only the closer, "Encarta", provides a glimpse of what we are conditioned to recognize as "real" humanity, a distinctly Orff-esque choir intoning a series of chants that probably only exist in that fabulous, specially designed Exo script; unsurprisingly, it's the most unsettling moment on an album often driven by the contrast between horror and giddiness. The intersection of those two elements is where camp often sits, and Exo has just the right amount of deliberate tackiness to shoot past "tasteful" and instead right into "blazingly glorious". To quote one of the earliest purveyors of a hybrid machinist-humanoid worldview (or world vision?) -- "Long live the new flesh." As Gatekeeper see it on this thrilling and possibly definitive album, it's impenetrable, multifaceted, and irrepressibly imaginative.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
July 21st 2012


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This review brought to you by 6 glasses of wine.

Stream: http://dismagazine.com/disco/releases/34788/exo/

Gyromania
July 21st 2012


15706 Comments


6 glasses? holy shit.

scissorlocked
July 21st 2012


3510 Comments


has an interesting ambiance and the glitchiness is in high levels

I think it needs some serious listens

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2012


31161 Comments


We were post-tumbler and now we're post-human

Also, album is some of the most boring music I've ever heard. Cheese-era mid 90s stadium rave with cliche "industrial" samples

Digging: LV and Joshua Idehen - Islands

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
July 21st 2012


3768 Comments


Cheese-era mid 90s stadium rave with cliche "industrial" samples


Ah shit, can't unhear.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Captain North
July 21st 2012


6787 Comments


But Crystal Castles is hardly mindless. Sleigh Bells is the logical extreme, but damn it's fun.

robin
Emeritus
July 21st 2012


4248 Comments


nice one, on both review & wine counts.


taylormemer
July 21st 2012


4917 Comments


Fuck. What's after post-human idk.

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2012


10198 Comments


Awesome review, especially loved that first paragraph. This sounds great.

Digging: The Contortionist - Language

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2012


31161 Comments


It's post everything man

taylormemer
July 21st 2012


4917 Comments


post-universe

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2012


31161 Comments


Bloggers and hipsters patiently waiting for the day music gets sucked into a black hole. Then things won't be passe anymore

taylormemer
July 21st 2012


4917 Comments


post-event horizon

conradtao
Emeritus
July 21st 2012


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

But Crystal Castles is hardly mindless. Sleigh Bells is the logical extreme, but damn it's fun.


I never said that I agreed with all of the sentences I opened with.

And I must say that I do buy the concept of "post-human" – at least how it relates to culture/art/advertising.

chambered49
July 21st 2012


1727 Comments


wtf is going on

PuddlesPuddles
July 21st 2012


4772 Comments


Ay, I found this album quite painful actually. Maybe this is just not my style, but very good review conrad, could have used much more vulgar insults towards Sleigh Bells, though ;)

conradtao
Emeritus
July 21st 2012


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i like slay bellz i was just tryna Make a Point

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
July 21st 2012


4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ahh yes, this needed a review.

Acanthus
July 21st 2012


9542 Comments


I saw this big beat and was happy, then saw Dev's comment and came back down to earth. Will give a quick listen all the same!

Digging: Falls of Rauros - The Light That Dwells in Rotten Wood

Acanthus
July 21st 2012


9542 Comments


Right off the bat I can see where Dev's dislike comes from, but also there's an issue with your tags...

This reminds me of a melding of light industrial sounds with darker trance elements; nothing entirely new, nothing entirely special.

I enjoy this, but it's nowhere near the level of astounding post-humanist, new-genre collective that you've heaped upon it.



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