Tuesday, February 27, 2007

RUBENS Carnivalesque (Herb Recordings)

RUBENS
Carnivalesque
HERB001CD
Herb Recordings 2007
10 Tracks. 55mins16secs




Herb Recordings

Scotland is once again taking the lead on the melodic electronica front with this rather fine debut release from Rubens, a duo formed of Mark Flanagan, who has previously been spotted transmitting from Glasgow under the ~ism banner, and Ayrshire-based Gordon MacDermid, AKA Gump. Yet, this is about where the connection with at least part of the Scottish electronic scene ends. As its title leads to think, Carnivalesque exults with refreshing joie de vivre and enchanting playfulness. Music flows through its ten tracks like a wild highland stream, jumping from one to the next with disarming ease.

Released on relatively new imprint Herb Recordings, Carnivalesque follows the band’s first appearance on the digital-only compilation Natural Environments, released in the second half of last year, and is Herb’s first CD release.

Carnivalesque resonates with echoes of early Warp-era electronica a la Black Dog, Autechre or B12, sprinklered with essence of mid-seventies Kraftwerk, Cluster and Tangerine Dream, the lot blended into voluptuous swathes of synthetic waves and unashamedly upbeat and modern electronica. Right from the opening moments, the pair set the tone with crystalline acoustic guitars layered over crisp electronics on Vertical Hold, and swirling melodies on the uplifting Breaking Into Smile. Within the first ten minutes, Rubens deploy an impressive armada of sounds and moods, wrapped up in disarmingly simple and confident pieces, that it is a wonder how they could sustain the pace for long and continue to deliver. Yet, they do, time and again, from the epic Ferris Wheel to the dense sonic clouds of Cayla’s Third and Winter Broth, carving wonderfully evocative melodic themes within translucent electronic formations, always reaching higher, pushing further, creating dramatic landscapes on which melodies flourish and develop at will, drum loops grow ever more intricate and dense, sound formations constantly change shape and appearance.

Even on the more subdued and introvert terrains of pieces such as Giraffe, Blue Belles Burn Slowly or After Now Is Next, Flanagan and MacDermid balance rampant melancholy with impressionist touches and inspiring arrangements to consolidate the overall mood of the record. Carnivalesque is intrinsically organic and warm, with vast cinematic open spaces and more intimate moments alternating with insistent regularity, denoting impressive maturity and judgement from the band. This is a record made by human beings, for human beings.

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