Music is “the immediate language of the will, and we feel our fancy stimulated to give form to this invisible and yet so actively stirred spirit-world which speaks to us”. (Nietzsche on Schopenhauer’s understanding of music)
After three weeks of enjoying this new album, I have decided it was time to review it. First of all, I would like to mention that personally I have found that I got into this album much faster than I got into Emotivision, which took me several months to really start appreciating it. But then again, maybe having his first album as one of my favourites for the past year allowed me to delve deeper and faster into Androcell’s sophomore attempt: Efflorescence (either “a gradual process of unfolding or developing” or “the highest point; the culmination” as per the back of the digipack).
So without further ado, dimming the lights, getting out the booklet with the artwork that accompanies each song and pouring myself some tea, I slip Efflorescence into the CD player.
1. Process of Unfolding: Having my personal hero, RAW, open up the album with a musing on space-time is a good omen. The extremely cerebral intro takes its time to unfold scratching the audience’s brains in the process. Only at three minutes do we get a steady very tribal percussion and a chanting (one that will stay with us throughout the song) to go along with it. The layers of sound just keep on piling onto each other without disturbing one another. Exactly at 4:20 (coincidence?), the beat really takes off suggesting the hypnosis that is to come. The process of unfolding proves to be highly energetic as well as very relaxing at the same time. Depending on the mood, one could either chill to it nodding one’s head at the opportune moments or really let loose on the dance floor trying to keep up with the drums. Right off the bat, it seems that the drumming got even more intricate in Efflorescence than it was in the debut album. The didgeridoo-infused outro contains another RAW sample and takes us very seamlessly into
2. Neurosomatic Circuit: where vocals are beautifully woven into a melody that is extremely present, much more so than in the first song. Here we get a steadier dubby bassline, around which other sonic layers will be assembled. The song itself with its repetitive patterns could activate a couple of neurosomatic circuits, whether one has eaten it, smoked it, or just listened to the piece. This is definitely some very heady and extremely psychedelic material, not your background chill stuff. Slower than the opener, Neurosomatic Circuit is meant to make one float away to whatever beautiful world one has been seeing in hir dreams recently. Makes me think of being on a far away planet and reminiscing about an Earth sunset, one [manly of course] tear rolling down my cheek.
3. The transition into Atmos-spheres is slightly more noticeable than the previous one but one could still easily mistake the third song for a continuation of the previous. On this one, we are treated to some more floating atmos-spheric scapes surrounding the heavy but not overly present bassline. The melody is once again something very much in the foreground, but we get another dose of particularly involved percussion encircling it not interfering with the very distinctive trancy feel that the song has. This should be dropped in the middle of a set when everyone is deeply immersed into hir own worlds. We are always brought back to ourselves (who are by now with those we belong with in the clouds) though by a slow but constant addition of sounds into the mix. Can’t wait until I upgrade whatever needs to be upgraded and watch the video that goes with this song.
4. Spectral Processor: While it is also mixed into the previous song very well, this is the first time we can distinguish the beginning of new song. Right after Raw delivers his “Think of the universe as an enormous computer”, we are swept by a rhythmic thumping that erupts very quickly into a sonic frenzy; forget staying seated. This piece is a bit less intricate musically, but what it has lost in that realm it gains on the dance floor. After having spectrally processed a couple of little pieces of paper a couple of weeks ago, by this song my body was totally out of control and undulating to the beat without me having any say in it (ahh, the memories). This could fit very well into the suspenseful moments of the soundtrack to 3001: A Space-Time Odyssey, dissolving at the end into a peaceful epilogue.
5. Aes Dana - Natti Natti (Androcell rmx): Right from the start we are in anticipation mode, and at about 40 seconds, that steady Aes Dana bassline gets underway and soon thereafter Shenyah Webb’s beautiful vocals come along to keep it company. This has a more ominous and darkly mystical quality to it than the rest of the album so far. The contrast between the spacey slowed down trance that we have come to know in Aes Dana’s work and the down-to-earth soul-piercing female singing works very well here. Anyways, the singing is very very beautiful, but I miss the detailed percussion work I have grown accustomed to during the past half-hour. Good, but is for me one the weaker pieces here. If not for the vocals, it would probably be quite forgettable.
6. Efflorescence: First of all, I have to mention that while all the accompanying artwork is very nice, this one (the one we also see on the cover) blows me away completely. After that spacey atmosphere of the previous, we get a very ethnic-influenced song with lots of aquatic sounds and sounds of nature woven into the mix. The title song also takes its sweet time to launch, something I appreciate a lot. All of a sudden we are treated to a robotic electro-type singing, which works very well here (I love contrasts, especially when they are done well). While very elaborate once again, this song gives the impression of being one of the simplest here, which is why - the minimalist that I am – I enjoy it so much. Another fine example of the massive production levels Androcell has achieved, taking elements that could easily clash and putting them together in such a way so as to seem to be meant for each other from the beginning.
7. Gnome Dosed: where the crickets make their first noticeable appearance in the intro, and the dub is once again the driving element. This is not only a standout on an album where standouts are really hard to pick; it is definitely a standout in electronic downbeat. Bouncy psychedelic colourful electronic dub at its best. Nothing else to say. This is where music becomes the highest purpose of man and language would be but a poor imitation if an attempt to describe the music was undertaken. A full return to the Dionysian cannot be far off.
8. Dub Crickets: where the cricket theme is taken further and things get toned down a bit for the closing of what was quite an engaging listening experience. This song was clearly made with spliff smoking in mind. Very hypnotic once again without forgetting the mind-twisting dose the psychoanalyst has prescribed. This is where one’s being is completely stripped down and the producer succeeds in reconstructing the audience slowly piece by piece while putting together the structure of the song. Dub Crickets turns out to be yet another proof that a wedding between a Jamaican bassline and a Middle Eastern singing could work very well, especially if the two spouses are such complete individuals in themselves. A befitting emotional ending to a roller coaster of an album slowly dissolving into a field full of crickets.
All in all, this is a huge effort by Androcell that will be playing in my stereo for decades to come. A combination of sounds that seems effortless, which is how such high quality music should sound, effortless. There is enough material here to keep the body and mind entertained and engrossed no matter what is happening outside of the headphones. Androcell took the ethnic and dubby elements of Emotivision and threw in a heavy dose of tribal for good measure, which makes the album even more danceable than its predecessor.
I can see what would make its critics accuse it of being plastic; there is indeed quite a bit of repetitiveness, but that is what makes it so hypnotic and entrancing. Do not get me wrong, there is not a second where the album gets boring. It must be the bassline that sounds plastic to the critics, but lets get real, this is electronic music, and Efflorescence is as far away from plastic as electronic music gets. There are no new ingredients here per se, but the cauldron has never seen such a mix of these ingredients before, not my cauldron at any rate. I cannot even fathom how good this will sound once it will have had a year to grow on me, because this type of music, when done right, always sounds better with time.
Two more elements must get special mention here, elements that are sometimes forgotten. One is the flow of the album. The harshest critic cannot say that this is a bunch of songs thrown together; no, this is a prime example of what they call a concept album. It keeps you on edge throughout the duration. As mentioned above, the first three songs play like one and the transitions are seamless afterwards as well, with the exception of the evolution of Efflorescence into Gnome Dosed.
The second element that deserves its own paragraph is one that will go unnoticed by none: the artwork. The cover art is sublime, and the blend of the organic and the digital is very representative of the music. Furthermore, there is a booklet inside with a page dedicated to each song. While a couple are not exactly my cup of tea, some others are worthy of hanging on my walls, and I am extremely hard to please when it comes to visual art, and especially what they call psychedelic visual art. The standout pages for me are the first 2, number 6 and 8.
The songs are all of very high caliber here, with number 5 being only good for me, and numbers 2,4 and 8 being extraordinary and as already mentioned 7 being out of this world.
All in all, this is a highly recommended album for any lover of chillout electronica (didn’t want to say downtempo because the tempo becomes quite “up” in places) and an absolute must for a lover of ethnic or dubby influences in said genre. 9.4/10
01. 09’10” Process of Unfolding
02. 07’39” Neurosomatic Circuit
03. 07’58” Atmos-Spheres
04. 07’37” Spectral Processor
05. 06’54” Aes Dana – Natti Natti (Androcell rmx)
06. 08’51” Efflorescence
07. 07’21” Gnome Dosed
08. 07’02” Dub Crickets