is one of secret delights, or perhaps just overt sorrows – I can’t quite figure out which it is. Not that those are mutually exclusive emotions, and the ambiguity between them seems more than deliberate here – like other “outsider” contemporaries, AL-90 is content with skirting the discernible, laying down their obscenely infectious brand of house at every turn, but only under the veil of one elusively lo-fi aesthetic. It feels fully realized rather than simply being a production conceit, though – Code
plays out like a quiet reflection on an urban haze of sorts, broadcast from the lonely heights of some upper-story bedroom window, tucked away on a side street somewhere deep in the recesses of the city. And, gentle as it may be, there is a voice that floats down with it – one which permeates the dulled pastel walls and the worn, cobbled roads below; one which whispers its song past the idle chatter and muted foot-traffic of the streets within. A voice faint in volume but unmistakable in presence, not crying out or begging to be heard, but simply asking “…is anyone listening？” There is a story to be told.
Hearing that story actually play out is like trying to recall a memory you never had, one that’s suddenly swept away from your touch the moment it begins to take form. By the time “Melancholia Staroy Pornozvezdy” rolls in, wavering so naturally between its throbbing bass and inconsolable strings, it’s already hard to recall what transpired before and led you there in the first place. In a way, it’s one of Code’s
few moments of coherence among the pervasive confusion which surrounds it – radiating grandeur and sorrow in equal strokes, but strung up together in a way you wouldn’t think to question. From there, we drift – into a dance both wistful and joyous (“Radicalnye Tanzi”), to muted stomping grounds (“Samoudovletvoris’ Suka”), until finally reaching Code’s
apex in “Smena Stadiy” and “Pandora 9.0,” a stirring pair of downbeat dance tracks set to the distant loom of grey skies above. But for all these disparate moods and the irregular jumps between them, Code
is unified by the subdued, soul-infused vocal samples chopped and sprinkled generously throughout, serving to lift us from its sluggishness while also grounding us in our element. And so we nod along to the beat, letting delirious rhythms twirl about in our heads and allowing those expressive vocals entry into our souls.
For a record which might seem so forlorn at times, I would hesitate to define it as such; those samples really do
imbue a lot of these tracks with a strange sense of hope. Maybe it just comes down to making an obvious human connection with us, the listener, but I think it goes beyond that. Perhaps the overarching detachment portrayed through Code’s
ambivalent tone is a reminder that there’s not only pain in loneliness, in the lives of those relegated to being observers, but that it can also hold its own private joys. A reminder of not only the hidden beauty of our own lives, but of those constantly swirling around us, interacting together in ways we cannot always see; of the frailty of a thousand memories and experiences, past and present, lived and lost. AL-90 looks within to explore these emotions, but only manages to lose us further in the process. There is no eventual resolution. Why should there be？ Code
rests on its power to inspire intrigue in all its unknown quantities. It doesn’t take long to become fascinated with the same thoughts ourselves, returning time and time again – not to seek clarity, but to find solace in the warm voices washing over the gloom, reminding us to stay the path and relish in its mysterious ways.