Review Summary: robot music for organic robots
During the late 1980's and early 1990's electronic music underwent a sort of transformation that came along with the digital age and the rise of personal computing and digital sequencing. Previously, electronic music that came from areas like the Berlin Scene and the early Detroit Techno scene generally followed normative synthesis patterns, but instead of using acoustic instruments and recording the sound, electronically synthesized sounds were created and then recorded. Yet, with the rise of affordable personal computing and advancing digital technologies, electronic music was no longer inhibited by the limitations of human input to create music. Instruments and sounds could now be carefully preprogrammed, layered, and executed in much the same way that computer code is executed, and as a result electronic music began to cast away many traditional construction techniques and create music that had not previously been possible with simpler instruments.
At the cusp of this transformation was a small independent British record label named Warp Records that, for all intents and purposes, was one of the major contributors, along with other labels such as Rephlex and Planet Mu, in the evolution of modern electronic music. After a few initial releases, Warp Records released series of albums dubbed the Artificial Intelligence
series which focused on showcasing the advancements of electronic music during this formative period and in pushing the limits of what electronically synthesized music could accomplish. The first release in this series, known as the Artificial Intelligence
compilation, features input from many of the most important artists in the IDM, ambient techno, and braindance subgenres.
Tracks from early versions of acts like Aphex Twin, Autechre, The Black Dog, and The Orb were included on both and compilations as well as albums in the AI
series. One of the most important yet sadly underappreciated artists who contributed to this series of releases was B12 (known as Musicology for the initialArtificial Intelligence
compilation) who, after releasing a series of singles and 12" EP's, released their first full length album, (Electro-Soma)
, for the Warp Records Artificial Intelligence
series in 1993. Their follow up release in 1996 entitled Time Tourist
, which was also a part of the Artificial Intelligence
series, represents the height of B12's output and remains to be one of the strongest electronic records released in that time period.
B12's sound before and during the Artificial Intelligence
years as well as on their initial full-length record consisted mostly of 4/4 hi-hat 808 and 909 rhythms washed over by spacey synth pads and futuristic leads. While most of this output was by no means dance music, it was much more reminiscent of older techno styles (mainly Detroit Techno) and didn't fully embody the IDM tag retroactively placed on them after the tongue-in-cheek genre tag became a legitimate categorization. While their participation in the early years of the Warp legacy was probably the main factor in warranting the IDM tag, Time Tourist
is a fully realized early IDM record that firmly places B12 among the most important and accomplished IDM artists of the time.
is stylistically very similar to many of the early Warp artists who went on to have greater success within this new style of electronic music. Most of the rhythmic sections are still mostly hi-hat 808 and 909 beats but this time with a much more intricately programmed and structured with more emphasis on rhythms that incorporate the whole spectrum of sound rather than just percussion ssections. Time Tourist
is thematically grounded in an atmosphere of retro-futurism, with soundscapes that are very similar to science fiction literature like the Omni
magazine and late 1970's and early 1980's science fiction. As a result, much of Time Tourist
involves ambient synth pads and leads that often resemble the ambient and progressive electronic that came from Germany in the late 70's and early 80's.
As a result, B12's Time Tourist
functions as a mélange of influences from earlier electronic scenes taken to the next level by the introduction of new technology that allowed for more complex, precise, and cerebral electronic music. In the wake of albums like LP5
, Time Tourist
might feel slightly antiquated and rudimentary because of its foundation in much earlier styles of electronic music, but it remains to be one of the most successful and entertaining albums to emerge from the early movement of dance music you aren't supposed to dance to. Even without context, B12's second full-length record is an extremely enjoyable ambient techno/early-IDM record that will resonate with anyone familiar with and interested in the early output from acts like Autechre, Aphex Twin, Plaid, u-Ziq, and The Orb.