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Out Of Sync

[Samurai Red Seal; 2012]

By ; July 27, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

One has wonder about the past two years of drum’n’bass wunderkind and Autonomic regular ASC’s career. After dropping his would-be crowning achievement, Nothing Is Certain, in 2010, perhaps the most significant brick in the d’n’b canon since dBridge and Instru:mental’s Fabriclive 50 mix, James Clements hucked himself off the reservation. Figuratively and literally. Well, maybe it’s not all that melodramatic, but he did finally drop the beat-oriented pretenses last year to release an ambient record titled The Light That Burns Twice as Bright, he also found time to drop an EP on the UK’s foremost industrial techno label, Perc Trax, earlier this year, and now there’s Out of Sync.

It’s not so much the general shift in focus that’s worthy of rumination, but the seeming subversion of a lot of things Clements helped birth amongst the Autonomic constituents at the collective’s height. Nothing Is Certain seemed to exist in the lengthy, branching stream of Continuum mutations alongside dBridge’s The Gemini Principal and Instru:Mental’s Resolution 653 with its introspective micro-textures and twitchy, unsatisfied percussion. Out Of Sync on the other hand has more in common with current trends in UK techno, even when it does decide to stealthily deploy 160-plus BPM loops. Here, ASC is building patient soundscapes, letting thick digital-goo drones flood each track next to soft, lulling percussive textures and gurgling, swampy synth lines.

The opening one-two of “Spheres” and “Glass Walls” basically bookends the stylistic diversity found on Out of Sync. “Spheres” sounds like Andy Stott stuck in the mud, but ASC’s swaths of moldy synths are thick and widescreen, the kick glugging internally. I’d compare it to a few more UK dub stalwarts – atmospherically, it’s not far off – but the track shares none of the negative space most current strands of dub techno try to radiate. “Glass Walls” doesn’t drop the newfound ambient breadth displayed on “Spheres,” but its stolid woodblock snare, jittery d’n’b sub-rhythms, and unwinding synth squelch are familiarly ASC-esque, only given a little more room to blossom. It’s also probably a more accurate picture of Out of Sync‘s overall tone. We get a great deal of out of date synth tones, pastoral, featherweight melodies, and an array of glimmering organic stringed-instrument samples.

But despite some significant spatial modifications and tonal shifts, ASC is still pulling from classic Aphex Twin-ian ambient techno and Orbital-esque IDM. Now more than ever, in fact. Out of Sync has a grand, languishing sense of melody and square-jawed  approach that doesn’t so much show hints of the latter, but does a nice rounded impression of it on tracks like the “Oneironaut,” “Disintegrate,” and, especially, “Prometheus” with it’s tangled jungle arpeggios and hip-hop drum loop. And “Stay True” and “Plume” sound like classic Photek d’n’b with just a touch of Autonomic understatement. There are enough glances in the rearview toward the 90s to be at once striking in, frankly, how uncool a lot of sounds by modern standards, and distracting in just how on-the-nose it is. You do get excellent tracks like “No Love Lost” and “Blurred Pictures,” which grab at classic, purpled dubstep synths and the soulful vocal samples so common in… well, just about everything right now, but Clements seems to track them down by way of those older influences. Enough so that they feel almost comfortingly out of place.

There’s a part of me that’s skeptical of what Out of Sync might mean for ASC. Is this just a stop off like The Light That Burns seemed to be? Is ASC shaking his tail feathers at what’s expected of him after Nothing Is Certain? These questions may perhaps be a little sensational. The answer can’t be so dramatic. It might not even matter. Clements’ ties to Autonomic have put a youthful spin on his career, but ASC has been going strong for more than a decade. And Out of Sync feels like an album delivered by a producer long in the tooth enough to follow whatever might be of interest at the immediate moment. Thankfully, the results are more than worthwhile.


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