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[Spectrum Spools; 2011]

By ; May 25, 2011 

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

Mist comprises Cleveland synth wizards John Elliot (one-third of Emeralds) and Sam Goldberg (of Radio People). After last year’s brilliant and tantalizingly short Glowing Net, along with Emeralds’ widely-acclaimed Does It Look Like I’m Here?, it’s fair to say that the two faced high expectations for this release. Not only was it to be a double LP, but it was to be among the first original albums put out by the new Editions Mego sublabel Spectrum Spools, helmed by none other than Elliot himself. Indeed, this looked to be the sublabel’s flagship offering.

Fortunately for all involved, House does not disappoint. In fact, it not only succeeds but succeeds with confidence. This is evident about thirty seconds into opening track “Twin Lanes,” when an adrenaline rush of sweeping chords trumpets its arrival over a rapidly looping melodic bass line. This creates a fast/slow dynamic — perhaps the titular “twin” elements — that allows the song’s amorphous structure to settle into shifting grooves of varying frequencies; the track develops gradually but constantly.

“I Can Still Hear Your Voice” begins similarly but takes greater pains to reinforce an overall musical theme: though largely lacking in percussion, this is a startlingly rhythmic album, at turns syncopated, driving, and freewheeling. Here, rather than casting a boring uniformity over shiftless arpeggios, this sense of rhythm frames the abstract melody and sound-effect decorations in an accessible context. I wouldn’t turn to an album like, say, What Happened to introduce someone to contemporary electronic ambient music, but House will sound pleasant to both longtime fans of the genre as well as new listeners.

And even when there is more tangible percussion, Elliot and Goldberg make it slightly bizarre—there’s no 808 worship here. “Dead Occasion,” for instance, is punctuated by what sounds like the pipe-warping noise from Super Mario World. “Ovary Stunts,” meanwhile, features the firmest percussive loop on the album; it’s as though one of the guys is wobbling sheet metal while the other bangs trash cans lids together. Somehow, this isn’t grating. In fact, the loop begins the track in solo fashion before doing beat duty for a spacey, new-age melody.

House ends with “P.M.,” my favorite track here precisely because it’s so different. Arrhythmic and more abstract than anything else on the album, it’s also the longest cut at over thirteen minutes. “P.M.” feels appropriately nocturnal; it buzzes with the sound of distant UFOs dashing across starry skies. It also exemplifies the fact that Mist makes space music in a way that Emeralds doesn’t; whereas the latter fills tracks to the brim, Elliot and Goldberg let their synth lines breathe. In so doing, they let their electronics do what they will, resulting in an unpredictability that makes albums like this one sound so fun.


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