The first thing Planet Mu told us about The Host was that it's someone we know. They didn't say who, that was a secret; they wanted to play that mystery game that's so good for sales and Twitter/forum discussions. But they gave clues like “the sound is easily recognisable”, and this sound can't be made by just anyone, so it should be easy to find out who it is. Everybody thought it was Boxcutter and lo and behold, on 11th March, Barry Lynn informed his 1,700+ followers on Twitter that he had a new album ready under a different moniker, with a link that led to... The Host's artist page on the Planet Mu website. Nobody at Betandwin will have made a lot of money on this one. In any case, before Lynn's slip of the tongue, okayed by his bosses (some mystery!), it was rather obvious already, at least to those who've been following the man on albums like “Glyphic” (2007) and “The Dissolve” (2011). The only difference is that The Host doesn't sculpt his bass line out of marble, nor does he elaborate too complex rhythms (in that rough land between dubstep and drum’n’bass), but Boxcutter's arsenal of analogue textures are still there. “The Host” is, in fact, like a Boxcutter album without the rhythmic skills, but with everything else in place (in a way, an extension of 2008's “Balancing Lakes”, the collection of Lynn's tracks from the time he was still learning to make IDM).
And yet, it's not a stagnant album. Lynn's downtempo line (generally speaking, because there are pieces like “Org”, easily describable as rococo drum’n’basss, adding the occasional discordant nuance) is different from what it used to be. The Host is a project focused on the use of analogue synths and the exploration of textures that sound like they're from the past, which he skilfully inserts into his arrangements of different melodies, rhythms and supporting textures. When we say “analogue synths”, we're not only referring to German ambient music from the seventies, but we also say it as a tribute to other, parallel sounds from the same era: “3am Surfing” sounds like a jazz moment, as if Herbie Hancock were on the verge of losing himself in a tangle of impossible keystrokes (scales that never come, but lie menacing in the shadows), although there's also a guitar outlining a new age interlude, followed by the kitsch of “Second Life”, in the vein of early eighties Californian space music, so present on Vivid's porn tapes. There are arpeggios like “Hidden Ontology” and its (supposed) reprise “Aeontology”, which suggest that Barry Lynn has been listening to Emeralds (or, if not, Tangerine Dream's albums from the late seventies, or, if not, Klaus Schulze), and if you listen to the album on vinyl, you hear how in the end, there's a logical progression in the shape the project The Host takes. The A-side is closer to Planet Mu's idea of mental dance music: the beats, though without a fuss, leave a trace of complexity that is softened by bright synths and spacey landscaping (like the summery sound of label mate Oriol on a Martian afternoon). The B-side reinforces those trippy sounds and moves them away from our world to enter an artificial dream space, maybe like the one on the album sleeve, which recreates the now-kitschy landscapes people designed in the nineties when talking about virtual reality.
The Host makes music that will be well received in the small circle of vintage synth fans and consumers of warm-textured ambient and IDM music, almost like a version between lounge and bass of the most purist and radical sound as released on labels like Digitalis or Spectrum Spools. That might be its weak spot: compared to the greatness released on those imprints, “The Host” is a friendly piece of entertainment, an attempt to sweeten up something that is already the tastiest of electronic music. However, even though the truly good stuff can be found elsewhere, this appetiser tastes and looks good, and maybe over time its bouquet (in any case incomparable to the dioramas of polymorphic breaks signed by Boxcutter) will improve.