Spark
The Robotic Girl Next Door


4.0
excellent

Review

by hyperi0n STAFF
March 25th, 2013 | 43 replies | 2,019 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist


Intelligent Dance Music seems like one of those genres born from a joke. It might not necessarily have been a joke at the expense of the artists who make IDM, but rather a jab at the motivations fans have for listening to the genre. It's easy to imagine somewhere back in 1992 a couple of guys hanging out in their basement spinning their buddies copy of Warp's Artificial Intelligence compilation and having him explain to them that, "No guys, it's not techno. It's intelligent dance music". That probably wasn't exactly the case, but the point is that IDM was probably never meant to be taken seriously as a genre. Even many of the leaders of the original movement express dubious sentiments about what the term actually means. Artists like Autechre and Aphex Twin describe it as being "silly" and tongue-in-cheek and either shun the label completely or ignore it in favor of more appealing categorization. As a result, it seems that IDM is a tag lacking any real definition or solid genre conventions. It's more or less "electronic music that people who like radio friendly electronic music won't like", and because of that it seems to make listening to new IDM a bit of a crapshoot. You've got the artists that try (and mostly fail) to sound like later era Autechre with their formless rhythmic experimentation and cold, calculated, emotionless song structures. Then you've got the guys who go for a more ambient, downtempo approach with pads and warm synth lines over less abstract arrangements akin to Boards of Canada or early to mid era Aphex Twin. And then you've got everything in between, from the glitch guys to the breakbeats and so on and so forth. The sheer amount of stuff that gets thrown under the IDM tag fully illustrates why Intelligent Dance Music is ineffective in its ability to place music under its umbrella of definition.

Spark's The Robotic Girl Next Door is one of those albums that falls somewhere in the confines of the "everything in between" category. The glitchy, chiptune rhythmic backbone is washed over by nostalgic synthesizer leads and thick basslines that are just abstract enough to resist comparisons to the downtempo, Boards of Canada school of artists but not quite theoretical enough to garner any tangible comparison to something like Confield era Autechre or later Aphex Twin. But it is precisely this that makes The Robotic Girl Next Door such an exhilarating listen. It is able to strike an elusive balance between all the elements that get lumped together in the overly-broad definition of Intelligent Dance Music to make an album that satisfies both the visceral and cerebral attitudes towards abstract electronic music. The most essential portion of The Robotic Girl Next Door is the synth work that is present on every single one of the thirteen included tracks. There isn't a portion of the record where the listener is not bombarded with warm synthesizer leads and arpeggiated tones sometimes painted over a backdrop of pads and drifting ambience. The rhythm sections range from simple, dance oriented pulses over thick basslines with a bit of 8-bit chiptune polyrhythm to the more abstract and formless experimentation of tracks like Rebound or Dream in 8-bit that occasionally comes to rest on the downtempo nostalgia of the synthesizer work of tracks like Devine Nursery Rhyme or Mad Scientist Vein. It is this expertly balanced amalgamation of direction that allows The Robotic Girl Next Door to succeed where many others have failed: the triumph of consistency.

With this debut full length, Spark has accomplished what many other artists who make similar music have failed to do. In musical climate that is intimately attached to the expression of extremes in any given direction, The Robotic Girl Next Door succeeds in its exercise of restraint. It appeals to a lust for the abstract that fuels many of the motivations behind seeking out something labeled Intelligent Dance Music while at the same time appealing to the visceral, emotion driven desire to revisit a piece of music over and over again.



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user ratings (8)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2013



18241 Comments


i would really appreciate some feedback on this one, i feel very confident reviewing metal because i have been listening to it for so long and know how to go about describing it but electronic music is a new frontier really, so any constructive criticism would be greatly appreciated

Digging: Syndrone - Salmataxia

coneren
March 24th 2013



11111 Comments


best review on the site probably

mindleviticus
March 24th 2013



8200 Comments


Good review, but I think you talk too much about IDM. That first paragraph just sounds like you're
assuming people on here don't know what it is (this is coming from a guy whose life is revolved around
this genre, though, so hey it's okay ;])

By the way, this album is fucking amazing.

tragic.details
March 24th 2013



624 Comments


Really need to hear this.

Great review!

foxblood
March 24th 2013



6797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

still need to hear this, the few songs i've heard were incredible

CaptainHadouken
March 24th 2013



1960 Comments


I am not much of a dance/trance music listener, but the review was well written. I think recommending some tracks would
help though to kind of give the listener something to go with. Review was well-structured though

EDIT: Well guess i can't pos huh?

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2013



18241 Comments


i didnt recommend any track per se but i did include a few in my description in the second paragraph
to try and accomplish what you suggested

and yeah i stared at that first paragraph forever trying to decide whether or not to trim it down but
i felt as if it was essential to the criticism i was giving the album near the end. does it really
feel that out of place?

mindleviticus
March 24th 2013



8200 Comments


It doesn't feel out of place, but just really meaty. Trim some of the unnecessary stuff and I think you'll be good. I think you should include the statement with Aphex Twin, though. Love that quote. ;]

Acanthus
March 24th 2013



9537 Comments


This sounds really good, like the title track a lot.

Liked how the review was three (albeit meaty) paragraphs. While I can see what mind was meaning in regards to the IDM bit it adds some history to the release so I can see why it was included.

Digging: The Cure - The Head on the Door

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2013



18241 Comments


thanks a bunch guys, this is exactly the kind of criticism i wanted to get on this, ill peruse it with
your comments in mind and see if i can streamline it a little bit

also yeah i was trying to include some quotes from all those guys but they just felt out of place when
i had the full ones in there. my favorite is the one from cylob, "anyone who applies the term IDM to
my music deserves to be shot" hahahaha

demigod!
March 24th 2013



44131 Comments


yeah this albums pretty sweet. good review man

Digging: Failure - Magnified

Typhoner
March 25th 2013



817 Comments


I heard the title track and I liked it.

Review is surely well-written.

Keyblade
March 25th 2013



14633 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

woah didn't know you reviewed this bro. nice

Digging: Kacica - Kacica

Keyblade
March 25th 2013



14633 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

it's a great review btw

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2013



18241 Comments


thanks bro, the album ive been waiting to review hasnt dropped yet so i figured id review something in the meantime

i sat on this one for like 3 days before submitting it haha

MO
March 25th 2013



18449 Comments


this sounds tasty

review is wag

Digging: Immolation - Dawn of Possession

Keyblade
March 26th 2013



14633 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

whoa i was wrong about you not liking this haha. nice 5

AdolfChrist
March 26th 2013



1735 Comments


glad someone reviewed this, its really good. i just wish i could find The Grey Box. i have Science Fiction and everything after this album seems pretty bad.

Keyblade
March 26th 2013



14633 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol

just jammed it again...goddamn it rules

geasoftime
March 28th 2013



1139 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Awesome, Hyperion. I'm glad you've given this a review. This is so criminally unknown, hopefully this will help expose it.



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