Review Summary: Psychotropic drug for the ears, to be taken in small doses.
Had Integral not released The Past Is My Shadow
, the progression between Rise
 and the just-released follow-up Sercosa
might not seem very logical. The aforementioned 2 CD compilation showed the long journey that lead the German duo to the completion of their debut album Rise, and suggested they had explored more than enough with their brand of lush, downtempo IDM. It was, indeed, difficult to imagine Integral following the same path.
Discreetly released a few days ago, Sercosa
presents us a drastic change in direction. Darker, minimal and more abstract, the new record is a challenging listening. Beats are conservatively used, melodies are subtle when found, and the whole sounds and feels like a dark, nauseating vacuum. It is hard to describe what is designed to be its own paradigm and to be discovered on your own, because despite its ties with other electronic music styles, Sercosa
stands successfully as something unique. Certainly, moving from beat-oriented music to a sparser, minimal dark ambient sound is not a novelty in itself (Pleq is perhaps the most dramatic recent example), yet the contrast is always disorienting, and, at times, even disappointing.
However, it would be a mistake to think Sercosa
is all about shocking the listener by means of contrast, for even seasoned dark ambient devotees might find the record more than strange and unsettling enough. Let us not forget Integral has always been about depth in sound, sophistication and texture; their architectural approach to music resulted in soundscapes that would be better described as beautiful and elegant, seductive and haunting, touching and powerful. The new album does not betray that spirit, but demands a new, different effort from the listener. This is what makes the album exciting. It refuses immediate apprehension, but it lets you know there is something more, that it is not cheating. It is simply a new enigma to be solved.
If only for the fact that Sercosa
does not fail in its ability to marvel and challenge, it is more than a worthy follow-up to Rise. As it is, Integral music remains an exotic dish for the most demanding tastes, almost achieving the perfect balance between stimulating the brain and pleasing the senses. I cannot think of other artist capable of turning the cerebral and most painstakingly-made sound machinery into something so delicately...human.