"Node" (Album, 1995)
Retro-inspired electronica from this English four-piece which includes Depeche Mode engineer Flood. This self-titled (or is that 'untitled'?) album from 1995 harks back to the glory days of krautrock electronics and most particularly early Tangerine Dream.
Consisting of just five tracks, Clock, Olivine, Slapback, Levy and Propane, this is an excursion into analogue times past but with a distinctive touch of the 1990s about it. The minimal instrumentation listing is: Interactive Phrase Synthesizer, Ring Modulated Trumpet, Modular Moog and (cryptically) The Putney. Whilst Tangerine Dream do appear to be a main source of inspiration, it seems as if Walter Carlos, and particularly his brilliant score for Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, has had a big impact too. Olivine could be extreme manipulation of some of the glorious sounds found in Carlos' seminal 1971 album. And it is impossible not to think of John Carpenter's characteristic sequencer compositions when listening to Slapback. With each track running at eight minutes or over, there is plenty of space for the music to evolve and develop. Ambient synths, distorted guitar-like noises, bells, chimes, rumbling bass loops, train track rhythms and steam-powered percussion each get their moment in the limelight.
There is a very deliberate, gradual progression to the five tracks on Node yet this isn't at the expense of spontaneity - genuine or otherwise. Even the most repetitive music can benefit from the unexpected and the four tunesmiths here ensure that it doesn't all go to the listener's perceived plan of what will come. In fact, the album's weaknesses lie in an occasional lack of focus where maybe a conscious effort not to conform has gone too far the other way. This leads to slightly 'direction-less' passages that significantly undermine the whole, most tellingly in the longest, final two tracks, Levy and Propane. Nevertheless, there's still much to take away from Node. But as the aforementioned Olivine seems the most compelling cut, one can't help but wonder how much of the highs are as a result direct inspiration rather than unbridled talent. 6/10