Following his 2010 debut release Palinopsia -- ostensibly a "mini-album," though a generous one at 44 minutes -- and 2011's Darkbloom split with fellow Montrealer Grimes, the spiritually inclined, synth music producer/composer Chris d'Eon returned with the modestly titled LP. That title is pretty much the only thing humble about this release, however: this is a lavish, downright Baroque affair not only in its length (at 73 minutes, an unambiguous full-length and then some) and conceptual underpinnings (the album is, according to its creator, an "oratorio in four movements," based around a prominent and somewhat moralistically blunt conceit involving internet technology and the Archangel Gabriel), but in purely sonic terms as well. Streamlining and elaborating on the stylistic palette of his previous efforts, LP offers an astonishingly cohesive amalgam of new age music, video game sounds, chintzy '80s-inspired digi-pop, juke and jungle, the left-field R&B of Frank Ocean and the Weeknd, synth minimalism à la Arp and Oneohtrix Point Never, and actual Baroque keyboard (as in harpsichord) music. It's a dense, sometimes dizzying soundworld that can feel almost absurdist in its utter lushness and array of juxtapositions, but it's also singularly, breathtakingly beautiful, and -- unlike similarly referent-saturated "post-Internet" sound-cocktails like those of Pictureplane or d'Eon's Hippos in Tanks compatriots James Ferraro and Ford & Lopatin -- uncommonly sincere and unironic in its pursuit of pure sonic beauty. (Although, granted, the icy, grandly austere and slightly alien aesthetic on offer -- featuring frequently chipmunk'd, Auto-Tuned, and otherwise heavily treated vocals -- will probably not appeal to all sensibilities.) While LP's tracks don't follow any one set formula, they share certain recurrent elements: plush synth-pad chordscapes (which, at the requisite moments -- check "I Don't Want to Know" -- don't shy away from Hornsby/Winwood-style AOR pop bombast); banks of meticulously fluttering arpeggiators spinning off into infinity; the aforementioned vocals -- processed, reverbed, and layered into woozy robotic harmony -- and rhythmic frameworks that are either drifting and amorphous ("Virgin Body" and the two-part "Gabriel" -- these would presumably be the recitatives of the "oratorio"), or else rigidly hemmed in by hyperactive, skittering drum programming ranging from the footwork-ish beatsnap of "Century by Century" and "My iPhone Tracks My Every Move" to the full-on Amen-break raggamuffin hysteria of "Signals Intelligence" (complete with laser zaps and pan flute synths.) The resulting compositions, which are sequenced to flow fluidly together, run the gamut from readily accessible electro-pop -- most strikingly, the single-worthy R&B stutter-step of "Transparency, Pt. II" -- to thoroughgoing abstraction ("I Look Into the Internet," essentially seven minutes of ambient arpeggios and analog squiggling). Yet the entire overwhelming, polychromatic thing, thanks to its scrupulously consistent sonic DNA as well as d'Eon's easy-to-overlook facility with melody, remains -- true to its title -- a gorgeous, potent, and indivisible whole.
|Label:||Hippos In Tanks|