What started out as a refined, airy dubstep project - heavily influenced by the mist and trembles of Burial - ended up becoming one of the most solid trilogies in recent electronic music, with some indescribably dazzling moments that still linger in my spine. Clubroot will have to carry the 'Burial epigone' until the end of his days (the nastiest will call him an imitator), but there were quite a few songs on “Clubroot” (2009) and the orbital “II - MMX” on which the student achieved his master's level and looked him straight in the eye, fearless. There's a few of those moments on “III - MMXII”, too, a record that should be closing a creative circle, and an opportunity to step back and think about which direction to take. It should be closing a circle, because, even though Daniel Richmond maintains the level of his previous two efforts, the formula is starting to show some wear, his movements are becoming somewhat predictable. While the first album created reasonable doubt (it was a perfect copy, but a copy it was), and the second took away that same doubt (before Burial renovated his stylistic resources with the prog twists on “Loner”, Clubroot had already used elements of trance on pieces like “Orbiting” and “Cherubs Cry”), on his third LP, he returns to introspection and expansion, at the considerable risk of collapsing inwards without the possibility to recover.
Obviously, it's not an exact copy, and there are some changes. For example, there are instants like “Lurking In The Shadows”; openly dark, dramatic, with the thickest bass lines ever, possessing minimal melodies in the vein of Kode9 or Photek moving away from the aquatic texture of his brand of dubstep. But even that sounds out of date already (tasty when well executed, which it is, but never surprising), and it prevents the album from being great like its predecessor. There are, however, more first-rate tracks than little fiascos. The intro, “Ennio’s Eden”, for instance, is spectacularly solemn. It’s like an extended edit of the first part of Jean-Michel Jarre's “Oxygène”: slow, Olympic synths displaying cosmic power make for a brilliant entrance. They are followed by all the mind states you can expect on a Clubroot record: voices that become deep sighs and clattering, tearful keyboards (“Left-Hand Path”), dubstep between shadows and moonlight (“Summons”), romantic passages with pixies bathing in the river (“Murmur Interlude”), and war drums that sometimes sound like an updated version of the aforementioned Photek's rhythms on “Ni-Ten-Ichi-Ryu” (“Garrison”). We can also add deep and sensitive ambient with a submarine bass lines (“Faith In Her”) and a track that lives up to its title: “Celestial”.
There's more drum'n'bass than dubstep, rhythmically speaking (on pieces like “My Kingdom” you can appreciate the development and trials), and that's a good evolution for Clubroot. It’s a notable change, but it's not a revolution, either, because he only plays with the idea timidly - it never fully explodes, and he only gives the sound a real twist at the very end, on a hidden and untitled track that features more Photekian aromas, indicating which way his music should go from here on in. “III - MMXXII” leaves the bittersweet sensation of knowing that a change has got to come, and it's not as good as its predecessors. But it also makes two things clear: firstly, Clubroot is aware of the fact that he has to add variation in order to move on, and he has already started working on it; secondly, as long as the textures are as dazzling as they are here, there will never be a bad Clubroot record. There might be one that doesn't come down from heaven like an angel bringing good news, but they'll always be up there somewhere, levitating and trembling with coldness and passion.