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Guest Review: Monolake – Silence (2009, imbalance computer music)

04/02/2011

“There is no general rule. I often just open Live to explore an idea, and end up doing something else because I found an interesting detail along the way. Or I have to work on a highly specific project, and have to discard a lot of the results because they do not work in a given context. Instead of throwing them away, I keep them and this might form the basis for another composition.” – Robert Henke on his compositional process

When Sergey wrote a guest review on my blog The Death of CDs back a while ago, I felt the need to return the favor. However, I didn’t know exactly what I should write about. The dynamic sounds of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “f#a#infinity”? The shoegaze glide guitar sounds of My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless”? The etheral pad sounds and Jonsi’s falsetto vocals in Sigur Ros’s “Takk…” and/or “( )”? There were so many choices, alongside trying to write new reviews for my own blog. Now, I finally found an album that pleases me. The album, in question, is Monolake’s latest release, “Silence”.

If you aren’t familiar with Monolake, you might be familiar with or have heard of the digital audio workstation Ableton Live and all its features. Robert Henke, one of the members of Monolake, is also one of the founders of Ableton, alongside his friend Gerhard Behles, who at one point was a member of Monolake, but left around the early part of the millenium to focus on Ableton. Robert, however, continued Monolake. “Silence” is actually composed almost entirely using Ableton Live, with additional sound design and sequencing from Max/MSP and the newly released Max for Live, and additional hardware reverb.

Monolake’s sound can be mainly categorized as minimal techno, but “Silence” breaks the definition. Whereas minimal techno and ambient music can be found on this album, there is particularly a dubstep influence as well, without the famous wobble bass that one would expect from dubstep. Combining synthetic sounds from Ableton’s Operator, Tension, and Analog instruments with found sounds, Monolake creates a cold and desolate atmosphere on this album. Warmth is extremely sparse, and the coldest of sounds are everywhere. This may be due to the fact that the album has not been compressed, limited, nor maximized at all. The sound is intentionally raw, allowing all the dynamics to come through.

Really, and I have to be honest, I couldn’t go through track by track to find the lowlights or the highlights of the album. As I am writing this, I am at my bedside, listening to the album. I don’t even know which song is playing at the moment, whether it is track 4 or track 8. The album demands to be listened to in full, without interruption or shuffling on your iPods, and heard as an experience. The result? A cold, stark techno album, bridging the gaps between ambient, minimal techno, and dubstep. An almost groundbreaking album that is unlike anything I’ve heard before. An album that, though it could be possible to dance to, would more be suited to be listened to while sitting down and relaxing. A riveting experience full of industrial bangs and clangs. The soundtrack of winter (yes, though the album shows a street covered in snow, nothing could describe this album more than merely being a soundtrack of winter). 9.5 out of 10 stars.

Album: Silence

Artist: Monolake

Genre: Minimal techno/ambient/dubstep

Released 2009 by imbalance computer music

Available at all major retailers!

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