Review Summary: Melody and Melancholy
Some of 2014's most engaging techno records have achieved their appeal exactly by going beyond "pure" (whatever this actually means) techno. Gesloten Cirkel
's Submit X
drew heavily from electro, synth pop, and acid and then threw it all on top of some of the most brutal drums in recent memory. Answer Code Request
, on the other hand, showed us to have more than just a passing interest in the UK underground and ended up with Code
, an album with a sound that sometimes felt closer to a dubstep mutation than techno. It just seems to be easier to escape than to be confined by the rather limited and already thoroughly explored sonic parameter space that is techno.
From the start of Inigo Kennedy's Vaudeville
, however, the intention appears to be clear: besides kicking off with the obvious atmospheric intro, the initial tracks deliver the trade mark sound of the Token label, a relentless, rolling brand of techno driven by trashing percussion. This is not that surprising, after all Kennedy, together with Ashley Burchett (aka Ø [Phase
]), has been a torch-bearer of the label since its inception. But a vaudeville consists of more than just one form of entertainment, and Vaudeville
is indeed more than just a set of exciting, floor-ready tunes.
Over his already two-decade-long career (with Vaudeville
being his fifth LP) Kennedy sharpened his production abilities, thereby exclusively focusing on a purely digital approach to sound design. Not only does this allow him to make Vaudeville sound meticulously crafted, but also to evoke emotion. Sure, a track like "Plaintive" is at its core still as ripping as expected, but the bleeping melodies manage to evoke a slow-burning moodiness, which is further expanded on by the album's slightly toned down (but still muscular) highlight "Lullaby". Tracks such as "Winter" and "Petrichor" basically further explore this blueprint but still manage to bring additional fine-tuning or slight twists to the overall equation. Final track "NGC5128" is again a fast-paced banger, but its haunting atmospherics recall the emotion of the album's center part and still elevate it to something slightly more.
The successful pairing of an uncompromising, purist techno framework with exquisite sound design are not the reason why Vaudeville
succeeds. In fact, they are merely the instruments Inigo Kennedy uses to create a truly memorable album: the astonishing thing is how he manages to twist and stretch this bunch of ones and zeroes in to something that is, for lack of a better description, deeply human.