Friday, 15 November 2013

REVIEW: Metamono - 'With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics' (Instrumentarium Records)

With advancing technology, these days anyone can put together a dance track using some software and a computer, meaning that many unworthy mainstream nobodies have been trying to hide a lack of talent, skill and creativity behind a load of shiny, buffed-up digital sounds. Aware of the abysmal direction electronic music could be heading towards, Metamono create music using only old analogue instruments, and have completely abolished digital recording and production as a rule. In fact they work around an innovative manifesto, which can be seen HERE at their website. Made up of musician/producer Jono Podmore, electronic wizard Paul Conboy and fine artist Mark Hill, they ban things like sampling, overdubs and even microphones from their music making regime. "Being able to download just about any sound imaginable is liberating in one way, but I've found it makes me less creative" explains Podmore. "Making purely electronic music while rejecting digital technology imposes limitations, but then actually forces you to be more imaginative and resourceful."

Stripping away the last few decades of electro music and building a new alternative from scratch, when sources are restricted, a greater degree of imagination has to be applied. And imagination is a vital ingredient for great music, a fact underlined by the sounds Metamono create. Following on from a couple of excellent EPs, the debut album 'With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics' is a fascinating and highly rewarding record that spans four sides of vinyl, reflecting four different sides to the sound of these visionary electronic musical scientists. Returning to the creative processes employed by game changers like Stockhausen, Raymond Scott, Joe Meek, Thomas Leer and Robert Rental, Metamono also share the experimental mindset of people like Can (whose Irmin Schmidt is Podmore's father in law) and Cabaret Voltaire as well as the musical instincts of acid house pioneers and early Mute Records artists, while somehow managing to craft a style as fresh and modern as that of Fuck Buttons or even many of the acts on Warp Records. All of this remarkable, often improvised music has been created using their "Instrumentarium", a mass unit of second-hand or hand-built vintage analogue synths, ring modulators, phasers, stylophone, theremin, sirens and transistor radio. Much of their equipment has been recycled from old parts from different instruments, making for a healthy amount of "found sounds"

Firstly, this record is not designed to be listened to in one big helping. It's split into four sides because each one should be listened to separately. The first opens with 'Uplink''s spitting beats moving busily across a surface of striking tones, bubbling uncontrollably and beeping urgently like an electronic traffic jam. The easy going astral patterns of the beautiful 'Linger Langour' exhibit a warmer, more human side to modern electronica, as well as an enticingly hypnotic motion that contrasts with the rather mad 'Rare Earth Rush'. It brings to mind a vintage Nintendo soundtrack for some sort of a 'Wacky Races'-type game, boasting clattering rhythms and a playful, almost humorous quality. As a result of a higher level of human input, these pieces awaken many senses and speak to the mind. The melodic late night vibes of 'Plums And Custard' return to a steadier pace, paving the way nicely for what's to come on side two. The second side reflects the more introspective, chilled aspects of the trio's sound, kicking off with the radiant Eno-like 'Blessed Space', where ethereal notes are topped with squiggles of frazzled noise. The stunning 'Construct' is a floating, ticking space ballad, eerie yet harmoniously graceful and in places reminiscent of Bowie's 'Low', while the strange beauty of 'Slenderman' journeys into ghostly intergalactic bossa nova. Magnificent synth sounds light up the wonderful 'La Grande Peur', where deep bass softly bounces over buzzing keys and layers of bustling percussive sounds that click into place mesmerisingly.

Side three takes us somewhere completely different altogether, as Metamono switch their attentions towards the dancefloor. Mischievous electro funk rhythms give the wonderfully eccentric 'Trypnotism' its propellent, jerky roboid groove, and proves extremely difficult for the ears not to respond to. You could try to dance to it, but you'd be throwing some pretty bizarre shapes. Burbling throbs of noise charge through the mechanical bounce of 'Slippery Jack' as pounding analogue techno jumps relentlessly, while the bonkers dancefloor rampage of the high energy 'Deuce' brings to mind the BBC Radiophonic Workshop taking command of the decks at an acid house party, yet it doesn't sound the slightest bit dated. In fact it sounds like it could have even come from the future. The vintage transistor radio experiments of 'Fezgate' close the third side of the album, which enters trippier, far out territory during its fourth part. The extremely random (and all the better for it) 'This Constant' pushes into weirder, more chaotic places, as do the hypnotic, eastern-flavoured pulses of 'Glowfade', while the awesome 'Funland' draws together many of their strengths, using dub-infused beats and strange astral tones to create an effect like some kind of hallucinogenic musical gas. Machines are pushed to the limits on the mad closer 'Armillaria Solidipes' which really does sound like some sort of battle, but it is in fact all out warfare, against mediocrity and against creative regression. 


Even the packaging is excellent. “It comprises visuals from a found object" explains Hill, "in this case it was a double album, a piece of vinyl which due to weather impact had become a solid object. We decided to use all the faces of the album for our cover before we had opened it. This had to be done almost surgically, with a scalpel, to reveal the interior which had been hidden from the gaze for many years. It seemed strangely more or less perfect." 

Much of it is like how we imagined the future would sound years ago, and ironically it's made by instruments from the past, most of them salvaged from the scrap heap. Contemporary ideas show that far from being Luddites or mere retroists, they're not looking to return to the past. Instead they're building something new out of old bits in order to make creative progress for the benefit of electronic music's future. This is why, despite never leaning on many of the less-skilled techniques used in electronic music these days, it never sounds dated and certainly never comes across like some sort of novelty. Part of their manifesto reads "Metamono will restrict and limit the sound sources and techniques available to us in order to liberate the imagination." Mission accomplished. 8.9/10



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