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Test Dream

[Exit Music; 2011]

By ; January 19, 2012 

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

Consequence’s second album arrives at an interesting time for drum & bass. Planet Mu has steadily been pouring on releases like one of 2011’s best, Machinedrum’s visceral reinvention, Room(s), giving Chicago footwork a chance to make its case in a post-Untrue world. And there are newcomers like Instra:mental, ASC, or Rockwell (who released one of 2011’s most overlooked EPs) testing BPMs pushing into red, contrasted with the type of beauty that has come to define bass’s staying power. Consequence’s Test Dream isn’t a surprise, continuing the strain of repressive rhythms found on 2009’s Live For Never, but even with two years separating each release and the steady resurgence of drum & bass, Consequence is still revelatory and sounds unlike any of his peers.

Test Dream operates on a submerged level. Listened to as a whole, the album can feel more indebted to watery, arpeggiated ambient exercises or minimal techno than trending currents of bass music. But, despite allusion to drum & bass’s high BPMs, Test Dream is an abstracted coalesce like syrupy watercolors dripping three-dimensional shapes onto a shuttering mass. It’s a surprisingly weightless album. Even drum & bass’s most beautiful productions can feel breathless, but Consequence operates at a pace that offers a peaceful and icy shroud of an atmosphere like being cryogenically frozen in antifreeze.

The ulterior percussion is often abstracted enough to become purely textural, like on opener “Can’t Say” which plods along with a sleepy kick while the breakneck snare click rattles ahead almost inaudible. The layers of contrasting tempos are a subtle, but effective dynamic. It’s also more immediate than, say, last year’s Pinch & Shackleton or Rockwell’s Aria, which put it’s locked, often breakneck, percussion at extreme odds with the slow unfolding glide of synths and samples. On Test Dream, kick and bass often operate on mingling, but rarely locked, tempos, while glitchy snares dash on ahead and glacial synths hang back. It’s a musically complex approach without a formula and Consequence isn’t one to find a groove to ride for an entire track. The throbbing “Slant” is a pretty straightforward grind, but “Marlo” sits on skittering handclaps while its lazy kick keeps time with the amniotic synth melody.

Beyond Test Dream‘s more overarching sonic themes, it’s an incredibly detailed record. The liquidated synth tones are in constant contrast with more mechanized flourishes, and even on more straightforward tracks like dance-ready workouts “Soul Sees Spirit” and “Oden” minor synth arpeggios and obfuscated vocal samples toil near the inaudible. Synth melodies and counter-melodies double up in an intangible sequence of revelation and reveal. The album is a diverse listen, to be sure, but it can feel a little uneven on the first couple passes. “Soul Sees Spirit”‘s neck-snapping drum loop is enough to give it standout status, but Test Dream is still at its best on more textural tracks like “Marlo,” “Of Uncertainty,” or “Untitled Dream” where the line between ambient and drum & bass becomes indecipherably thin. Tracks like “Loveshell” and the sloggy beatless ambient mid-section, while good, detract from a cohesive whole with an aesthetic that’s unlike anyone else working in bass music.


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