Unique lo-fi gelatinous electronics. Dedicated to Dr Barbara Burford.
So the jetpacks to get us to and from one place to another, the silver suits and three course meals contained within one handy pill never materialised but at least the music of the future did. Though rock & roll refuses to die despite its many obituaries and supposed wakes, there remains a corner of the creative universe where six strings are a half dozen too many and chords too much of a hassle to master. This isn't necessarily an outright rejection of established forms of music, just a realisation that machines can create just as valid a vernacular.
And so it is that Mink Freud – that's North London producer Sarah Burford to her nearest and dearest – has delivered a debut album that, while moving away from conventional notions of music and melody, luxuriates in aural textures and layers with an almost delicate fragility to create a soundtrack to mood and motion. The harmonised sighs and whispers of opener 'Dr Dre Vs The Seraphim' pretty much set the tone for the unfolding journey contained with the album's running. Indeed, so Zen-like are sounds contained here that they frequently threaten to not exist at all.
Occasionally beatless (see 'Winter Sunrise'), the music is propelled by hypnotic pulses and a sense of tension and drama made all the more compelling by dynamics that rise and fall like lungs breathing in and expelling air. Conversely, when the beats do arrive they're more like shuffles and scrapes that blend with the drones surrounding them.
'Music 4 Martina' is a case in point as it articulates a kind of longing that eventually surrenders to an overriding sensation of bliss. Indeed, this is where Gelatinous' strength lies. Though far from confrontational, Mink Freud's unconventional approach elicits an initial defence mechanism that soon crumbles in the face of melting joy that becomes all pervasive. Indeed, as evidenced by the chilling noir of 'Kentish Town', the sensible response would be to turn and run but repeated visits unveil reams of joy that become impossible to resist.
And yet what make Gelatinous so strong exposes a slight Achilles' heel. The one-paced nature of these nine pieces of music would benefit from a greater sonic palette, but this is a minor caveat. Indeed, one suspects that this is exactly what Mink Freud is aiming for as perceptions of what can and can't be done within this particular framework are toyed with and manipulated. As an initial calling card, Gelatinous promises much for what is likely to follow.
Cast your mind back to the early and mid-’90s. You may recall a specific revolution in electronic ambient music. Artists like Aphex Twin, Orbital and Brian Eno brought a whole new meaning to the electronica of that era, kick-starting a stylistic movement that would end up being quite influential itself. This deep ambient electronic sound can now be heard in all sorts of genres, but there are still plenty of artists producing the lo-fi electronic sound that enraptured listeners in the ’90s. With her debut full-length album, Gelatinous, North London artist Mink Freud has crafted a piece of music that transcends history – referencing the past and carving the way for the future in 45 short minutes. There’s a lot to love about Gelatinous, but buckle your seat-belt — it’s quite a journey.
The nine-track album opens with the haunting “Dr Dre vs the Seraphim”. It’s an effervescent ambient track with a repeating vocal refrain that, while purposely repetitive, doesn’t grate on the ears. In the undercurrent of this track you’ll detect what almost sounds like a church organ, adding further airy atmospherics to this ethereal opener.
As the album progresses we start to hear more structured beats developing. “Music for Martina” is the first greyer example of this with its deep bass and hollow-sounding ambient drone. Flashes of synths are applied here, but it’s done liberally as not to approach the synth-happy territory of ambient and electro-pop artists alike.
Gelatinous moves at a fairly relaxed pace, as you would expect from an ambient record. There’s not too much straying from the formula here, with Mink Freud opting to explore moods rather than expand the roster of instruments. That’s not to say the musicianship isn’t spot on. In many cases it shines; this album is more of a mood-setter rather than a head-bobber. Moods move from light to dark quite readily, with tracks like “Kentish Town” expertly blending the lighter percussion with deep foreboding ambient drones. And of course it wouldn’t be modern electronica without those touches of glitch-pop on top.
The mood of the record darkens considerably with the aptly titled “Darkness Approaching”. The track is desolate and dark, with the juxtaposition of a distorted bird song calling to mind a post-apocalyptic wasteland with re-emerging life. It’s demonstrative of this album’s strengths that such images can be evoked through sound.
Gelatinous closes on a real high note, with the cathartic mood of “Winter Sunrise”. It’s a very subtle piece, which ends the album perfectly. Deeply atmospheric, it manages to capture a feeling of hope and inspiration. True to its name, “Winter Sunrise” has tendencies of coolness, softness, tranquility and a lulled undercurrent that pervades it. This song is a real accomplishment, and manages to create the feeling that you’re coming back down to earth from a cosmic journey… in the very best way, of course.
Overall, Gelatinous is a solid ambient/low-fi album from an up-and-coming artist that deserves all the praise she’ll undoubtedly get. It’s one of those albums that will make you want to lie back on a recliner sectional, put your feet up, and escape into a completely alien world of soundscapes and ambiance. Each song captures the ear and the mind; the entire album is a real journey for the listener. From the ethereal to the cold harshness of reality, no stone is left unturned. Some listeners may tire of the slow pacing, and could potentially see fault in the lack of drive within the tracks, but anyone with an ear for the ambient will relish these things as they are facets of the genre. If you’re a fan of ambient acts like Trentemøller, Aphex Twin, and The Future Sound of London, you’ll be right at home with Mink Freud’s Gelatinous. Perhaps the best way to describe the album is by using the title itself: gelatinous. It’s a bit wobbly at times, but it has a certain smooth pliability and inherent comfort woven within it asserting subtle brilliance.
Zeer gelimiteerd album van een eigenzinnige artieste. Het is net alsof ze vanuit de toekomst laat horen hoe elektronische muziek van artiesten van weleer had kunnen klinken. Rudimentaire, elektronische geluiden gaan hier hand in hand met futuristische en brengen een bevreemdend soort ambient met drones en niet te definiëren klanken. Alsof Grouper, Leyland Kirby, Aphex Twin, Tangerine Dream, The Future Sound Of London, Oneohtrix Point Never, Xela en Brian Eno elkaar hebben ontmoet op een nog te ontdekken planeet. Buitengewoon biologerend debuut.