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White Noise: Lone – Galaxy Garden

Monday, 14 May 2012

Lone – Galaxy Garden

Label: R&S

Matt Cutler’s much anticipated new LP on R&S is the continuation of a young producer with an impressive back catalogue and a unique sound, but it may still come as a surprise that Galaxy Garden represents a real departure for the UK producer. While he honed a strong sound, fusing his bright colours with the existing genres of Hip Hop and House on earlier releases, here most of that is stripped away to leave just the colours and the lights, creating a different take on music that is still undeniably Cutler’s own. Galaxy Garden is a departure; from dance music, from samples, and ultimately this is both a strength and a weakness for the LP. His new sound is inviting and at times fascinating, but some tracks, pretty as they are, could ultimately be called a little unmemorable when compared to excellent releases like Emerald Fantasy Tracks or Pineapple Crush.

Cutler’s music has always courted the most vibrant extreme of Technicolour, but now his bright synths are more richly textured and three-dimensional, resulting in a jubilant atmosphere that never comes off as superficial. The production, as could be expected, is of the highest quality; the sheer amount of rhythms and melodies being juggled on these tunes is always dense but never cluttered, showing a producer who knows when to stop just before it’s all too much. Opener New Colour perfectly establishes what’s coming on the LP; not an entirely new sound for Lone but rather a new shade to be added to his repertoire. There is a richness in his bright, shifting synths and the wooden percussion that feels surprisingly organic, signalling a mastery and confidence that proves surprisingly accessible as well as impressive.

New Colour

Galaxy Garden is an aptly named album, one really has the sensation of wandering through a glistening electronic garden, with so much to see and hear seemingly coming from every direction. This is communicated through a vivid sense of exploration and curiosity, and Cutler’s choice of bright, shiny textures will make the listener keep wanting to listen and explore. The pacing Lying In The Reeds contains a real sense of movement as the tune shifts between deep hazey plateaus (reminiscent of earlier Lone productions) and racing percussive stretches, while Dream Girl / Sky Surfer is a dreamy (yes, really) number that cycles between big vibrant synthwork and a coiled percussive loop.

Raindance is almost too manic to exist but just makes the cut; intense and jubilant, it rushes past your ears to powerful effect. Elsewhere lead single Crystal Caverns 1991 is a clear standout; showcasing Cutler’s talent at combining frantic immediacy with clever structure so that his productions always feel spontaneous yet intricately laced together. Here typically intense pitch-bent synths give way to a harder, rave edge (signalling the 1991 of the title) to give the genre an excellent and thoroughly modern update, replete with the 90s staple of wordless vocal exclamations. The tune, like Cutler’s best, is always fast and exciting as well as frequently surprising, as he builds layers and proceeds to re-apply them intriguingly, building a continuity that always sounds undeniably fresh.

Crystal Caverns 1991

As breathlessly exciting as a lot of this music is, the tracks on offer are generally cut from the same sonic cloth so it might take a few listens to really differentiate between the tunes. This could leave you gasping for a little variation in the sounds, but it has the advantage of making Galaxy Garden consistent and accessible, lent coherence by the uniformly bright colours and racing rhythms.

When Cutler does change it up it’s very impressive, as on late standout Earth’s Lungs. The tune is divided into a few distinct parts and forms a sort of descent into percussive darkness; beginning with ominous clicks before dropping into something simultaneously darker and sillier (that silliness that has always made Lone’s dance productions a little different and irreverent), with churning acid basslines and crystalline synths cascading over a fractured drum loop. Other variations are not quite so impressive, such as the collaborations on offer. While Machinedrum collab As A Child starts out promisingly with a searing synth melody and rapid footwork percussion, Travis Stewart’s indie-esque vocals hold it back from achieving greatness. Meanwhile closer Spirals, with vocals from Anneka, will likely divide listeners; to some it might be a nice human touch to close out the album, but others (myself included) may find the vocals render the instrumental somewhat background-y and unobtrusive, which is the polar opposite of what one expects from Lone.


On Galaxy Garden Lone gets caught a little halfway; his new sound feels like it’s not quite mature so while some tracks are truly brilliant, others feel somewhat unremarkable. The similarity of sounds provides a good consistency and listenability but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of variation. Overall Galaxy Garden is a great achievement, and the production is top-notch at all times, but I’m more excited for what comes next, when Cutler develops this sound, than to sit listening to this LP on repeat. It’s joyous stuff, and although not everything on the LP quite hits home, Galaxy Garden provides a celebratory soundtrack to the summer that should please most comers.


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At 14 May 2012 at 14:15 , Blogger Julian Bond said...

This really reminded me of the Reynolds "Maximalism" essay and Rustie's Glass Swords. Like that, in the end I found it too sterile and cold for my tastes.


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