Friday, 22 October 2010

Hongkong - Monolake

Something to do: play one track on Spotify and another from your PC library simultaneously. I was listening to Monolake’s ‘Hongkong’ and Chris Watson’s ‘Stepping Into The Dark’, by mistake, and I got to like it. Now all kinds of possibilities open up for soundclashes between, say, Z’ev and Hi-Energy disco, or Eno and Drexciya.
   Thirteen years after its release I’m hearing all of ‘Hongkong’ having only owned parts before. I’m glad there are gems still to be discovered. That much is obvious for all of us, yet something about Techno suggests immediacy, therefore immediate appreciation? Perhaps. Yet the label ‘Techno’ doesn’t do ‘Hongkong’ justice, which is not to say that Techno cannot be deep, but I’m guessing many will associate it more with the thrill of speed and noise. So how about ‘Electronic Music’? Mmm...rather vague.
   I’m struck by the similarity between ‘Mass Transit Railway’ and Vangelis’s ‘Blade Runner’, right down to the synth solo, the mood of the modern futurist cityscape. There’s even the sound of rain at the beginning of the first track, ‘Cyan’, echoing the rain-soaked mean streets down which Deckard walked. ‘Macau’ develops into a minimalist skank about halfway through; the kind of thing a robot reggae band will be playing in the future, obviously.
   As with all Monolake productions, the layering of elements is crucial, along with the depth of sound created by the judicious application of echo. There are beats, but they remain muted. The tension between key Techno motifs and the desire to undermine, or challenge their authority, is one thing that makes this music so interesting. The dynamics of rhythm played against equally prominent tones, waves, pulses, electronic scribbles and so on. This is best demonstrated on ‘Arte’ where, again, the rhythm suggests Jamaica more than Detroit, but everything else, including the sounds of waves, pulls in another direction, or rather, suggests another world.
   ‘Occam’ is the most immediately pleasing track, an instant fix of what became a trademark sound in the Basic Channel/Chain Reaction armoury. If you’ve heard much of their output, you’ll know that it became a trademark to such an extent as to seemingly trap all but the best artists.
   Thirteen years may have passed but to me this music seems to have an inbuilt source of renewable vitality which keeps it as fresh today as it was then and will be in the future.

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