Album Review: RxGibbs – Contact

[Cascine; 2013]

Back in February 2012 I reviewed RxGibbs’ EP Futures. Rooted in chillwave aesthetics, it was a rewarding and ethereal listen full of complex beats and chopped up vocal samples. For Contact, his début full-length, RxGibbs loses none of his electronic flavour. Across these eight tracks, spanning just over half an hour, he explores a plethora of interesting, chilled-out sounds that are, if anything, a continuation of what we heard from the artist a year ago.

“Red Connection” is a stomping piece of of electronic music, verging on danceable. Vocal samples undulate in the background, chanting indistinctly, but the real focus here is on the beats, which hit hard and fast. With its delicate moments in the second half of the track, stripping back the propulsive energy briefly, this is a strong intro that makes up for its lack of variety with an addictive core melody. “Pulse Code,” meanwhile, is more typical of what we heard from RxGibbs on Futures: subdued and minimal, until its latter section where vocal samples pad out the enchanting mix.

There appears to be a tried-and-tested structure to how many of these songs work, verging on predictable. A formula of starting off with basic beats, adding in additional loops until a satisfying climax is reached has long been a staple of electronic music, and while Contact does shy away from being run-of-the-mill at times, such as in the title track, a lack of diversity throughout could be the album’s biggest weakness. What is here sounds good, but a lot of it sounds similar. Nevertheless, there are creative moments on display here: the oceanic rhythms of “Contact” reminded me of No-Man’s “Days in the Trees – Malher” if it received an electronic twist, while “Temptations” is altogether unexpected, sounding like some sort of Celtic-inspired electronica reverie concocted during one of RxGibbs’ brightest moments.

“The Low” rounds things off nicely, with tropical drum sounds and pretty, feminine vocals reverberating and echoing throughout. Starting off slow and soft but developing into a dense, delightful landscape of sounds, “The Low” is another example of RxGibbs at his creative best. The same cannot necessarily be said for “Empire,” which sounds fairly generic by the standards set by the artist. While these tracks are consistent, new and exciting developments are sadly lacking; Contact isn’t so much a development of the sound on Futures as it is more of the same.

While a lack of variation does hold Contact back from being a truly significant electronic release for 2013, it should be noted that the studio production on these tracks is excellent. Cascine, RxGibbs’ record label, have given him plenty of room to shine: these songs are densely produced, every sound rings true and some of the more restful tracks, such as “Honey Dub,” sound particularly polished. For fans of chillwave and electronic music that can put you in a trance, Contact is a decent example of the genre. While others may not be able to stomach thirty minutes of this particular brand of electronic evanescence, there is just enough of interest here to justify giving the record a listen.