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Monolake MonolakeGhosts

8.6 / 10

Robert Henke likes to swing back and forth between nervous dance music and absolute calm. Like a pendulum, after reaching the highest point, he quickly goes downward (which would be the years of silence which he uses to compose, travel or secretly work for museums), only to go up again on the other side until he reaches another climax, a zenith. Monolake's career, like the pendulum, has moments of highs and lows, but never stands still: if he doesn't reach excellence, Henke is at least trying to get there. It's been like that forever, from his first 12”s on Chain Reaction -later compiled on “Hong Kong” (1997)- to “Atlas” (2009), the single that almost coincided in time with the ambient exploration of “Silence” and the drones of “Indigo_Transform”, his last efforts to date. It's hard to believe it's already been three years since then.

“Ghosts”, after those two albums of introspection and autism, of ignoring the beat and embracing the isolationist side of electronica (the kind of material that adds prestige and scares away the club programmers), is, therefore, another representation of the pendular movement, and from radical ambient he once again goes to the hubbub of beats, the magma of polyrhythms, which, surprisingly, reactivates one of his sleeping passions: drum’n’bass. Right from the start, the German attacks with “Ghosts” (the title track, that is), or: how to merge the clayey textures of the post-Basic Channel school with a brand of tech-step that sounds like pure Ed Rush & Optical, only pitched down to -4, splashed with metallic breakbeats sharp like a scimitar, and a robotic, very LFO-like vocal on top, apparently Henke's own. It's not the only incursion in psychotic jungle: traces of Matrix and recent dBridge can be found on “Discontinuity” and “The Existence Of Time”, two exercises of lazy drum’n’bass, introverted, slow, rhythmic labyrinths within other labyrinths where whistles and granular noises echo, while “Lilith”, towards the end of the record, is an indication that Henke must have the best of Photek (the era of “The Hidden Camera” and “Ni Ten Ichi Ryu”) on his nightstand.

“Aligning The Daemon” is another broken moment, a muddle of cold beats and rhythms, but here Monolake sounds more familiar, more techno, like on that wonderful single from 2004, “Alaska Melting”. But techno, as an idea, doesn't carry a lot of weight on “Ghosts”: possibly influenced by his work with righthand man Torsten “T++”, Henke's breaking the rhythm has more to do with dubstep, but a very personal version of dubstep, in the vein of architects of complex breaks like Pinch, Peverelist, Jack Sparrow, Random Trio and Shackleton, who, in their turn, are heavily influenced by that primal sound of Berlin techno, of which Robert Henke was one of the initiators. So with the circle full (with tracks like “Foreign Objects”, “Hitting The Surface”, “The Existence Of Time” and “Afterglow”, which, together, would be perfect for the best single the Tectonic label isn't going to release this year), and infusing the album with certain moments of experimental ruggedness between icy ambient and cruel computer music ( “Phenomenon”), Robert Henke has come to explain to us, once again, why he is god. He can now take another three years, or five, or the rest of his life before he releases anything new. We don't care. This one will echo for a long time.

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