Countless “electronic” releases pepper the musical landscapes of yesterday & today. These range from the droves of cookie-cutter drums-and-bass/trancedubhouse releases—distinguishable only by the most subtle of stylistic differences—to shamelessly self-indulgent amorphous affairs which mingle ‘neath the ambient umbrella. Along with these [larger] subgenres, the style known as Berlin School—nurtured by Klaus Schulze, and his former band, Tangerine Dream, circa their 1973-1977 period—also experienced a credible (and to some folks, incredulous) resurgence in the 1990s that continues today; current groups that explore this format include AirSculpture, Radio Massacre International, and Redshift. The experimental (more than ever, a vague heading) and noise subgenres are whole other case studies best left alone, for now. Oddly enough, the more melodic side of electronic music (EM), barring any & all connections to new agey dreck, appears to have woefully inadequate representation nowadays—some of the best examples are Le Parc and Underwater Sunlight by Tangerine Dream; Legion and Crash Head by Mark Shreeve (now a founding member of Redshift); Terraformer and Xenomorph by Andy Pickford; and Breed by Corporation. Sequencing ever-present, the music is propelled by mondo triad chord-stacks, searing right-hand leads & punchy left-hand synthbass (most of the latter is sequenced, though), and dynamic percussive patterns that tend not to stagnate in the same manner as repetitious upbeat~downbeat drumloops.
No, not many of these sorts of recordings appear to have touched down, lately, if at all…but one such disc has just slid across my desk. É is the second album by 70s-progrocker-cum-80s-electropopper-cum-90s-synthsurrealist Otso Pakarinen, in his guise as Ozone Player. The eccentric Finn’s followup to Insane Logic is just as quirky as its predecessor, and more cohesive and expansive. Pakarinen is no humorless recluse, either, as his track titles suggest. The throb of the opening synthbass notes of “My Name Is Bond…Jeeves Bond” casts a nicely prophetic spell for the entire album. While the tune is firmly rooted in trance, a noticeably Arabic motif still winds its way throughout, most evident in the lead melody. A switchover to a more classically-oriented bit is matched by a segue into a concretely eurodisco part before the initial theme reprises. “The Wobbling Wardrobe” unfurls like Direct-era Vangelis for the first two minutes—a synthetic oboe lead dances over industrial timbres like bare feet atop hot coals.
Does Jean-Michel Jarre’s Zoolook ring any bells? It’s reincarnated itself in “Ollism,” an arrangement based on a triggered vox-sample (original vocal by Esa Hyvonen) combined with various percussive samples copped from a variety of workshop tools (this treatment resurfaces in É's second half as "Re-Ollism"). Aptly-titled, “The Runner” carts you off on a 16mm chase (black & white) to retrieve stolen hashish from a tourist who wants to smuggle some out of the country for his homeboys back in the States—sorry, wrong film! Guest-starring guitarist Jouni Halmari, tension is built nicely via a gradually quickening tempo and Otso’s typically excellent sound choices. Bell tones shimmer on “Light Music For Small Masses” (get the pun?); were it tempered by shades of the Orient to a greater degree, this wouldn’t sound too out of place on, say, Le Parc, sans the rhythm track.
”Inzekt Danz” is the theme of choice to accompany Otso’s pic in the CD booklet—he’s the Finnish Thomas Dolby, no doubt about it. The dance-floor TR-808 beat and the sanitarium~circus vibe that the “Danz” effects is positively and amusingly wacky. For now, “Saurus” is the exit track, with Kimmo Kivela on (as printed) liquid piano. Liquid piano. This track may be the best, following “Jeeves,” but let your ears be the judge. The opening track is such a tasty morsel of vibrant EM, that one might say the the rest of the album stuggles to cope. Éither way, there’s not a boring moment to be found on É, so spare no Éxpense, and add this to your pending Électronic Music purchases list.