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Minotaur Shock Minotaur ShockOrchard

7.5 / 10

The world was a completely different place back in 2001 when David Edwards, aka Minotaur Shock published his first album, “Chiff-Chaffs & Willow Warblers”, a compilation of his first 3 EPs. That was the year Apple brought out a little digital device that changed the music industry. Things were very different then, and records like “Pause” by Four Tet, “Supermogadon” by Marumari and “Island Row” by Capitol K were leading journalists and people in general to misuse and abuse the term “folktronica”. So a lot of people ended up getting the wrong idea and the concept spread. From then on, the use of (traditional) instruments in combination with electronica wrongly became known as folktronica. And that is exactly what happened to Edwards. A lot of people used the then oh-so-fashionable tag to describe his sound, while he was blurring the lines between acoustic and electronic music. Journalists and fans around the globe also tried to pigeonhole him under that “Bristol sound” umbrella that led people to label his sound as trip-hop. However his music is neither. So what now? Is the IDM tag suitable? It is intelligent music—but can you dance to it? Of course you can. But it probably won’t get played in many clubs. Edwards’ tracks are too classy and probably too sophisticated to please the masses.

His second and third albums, “Maritime” and “Amateur Dramatics”, were released by 4AD in 2005 and 2008. Since then, David has kept himself busy working on other projects. He collaborated on Perfume Genius' latest album “Put Your Back n 2 It”, adding electronic percussion on the track “Floating Spit”, mixed the first single, “Hearts In Home”, by Kwes, played shows with Hauschka and Gold Panda, and also toured supporting Ratatat. Now, after a four-year hiatus, he returns to Melodic, the Manchester label that was the first to show interest in his music.

Edwards wrote the basic tracks really quickly at home (in about a fortnight), then spent three days in a studio recording drums, piano, xylophone and bass guitar, to finally mix it all at home. There are a couple of tracks that didn’t fit, which will probably come out as an EP. It’s the first time that Edwards has used a proper studio to add all of the aforementioned instruments. Flutes and clarinets were recorded in Devon by long-time collaborator Emily Edwards, and violins were recorded separately elsewhere by James Underwood. To those familiar with Minotaur Shock, the songs won’t be a surprise: his trademark is present at all times. Fans will surely guess that he is the mind behind them when they hear the songs, without knowing whose they are. Those who have never heard of him need to be prepared for a shot of utter beauty that will make their hearts skip a beat.

“Janet”, the opening track, is a nine-minute epic that immediately draws you into its gravitational field. Some lovely violins are the anchor that keeps you from oscillating too wildly, and they act as a chilling outro, much like the ones on “My Burr” on his previous album. “Ocean Swell” sounds like the perfect soundtrack to go with the landscape pictured on the sleeve of Tortoise’s “It’s All Around You”. This might not make any sense to you, dear reader, but that’s the kind of synaesthetic phenomenon I experienced when I first listened to it and closed my eyes. “Through The Pupils Of Goats”, is, without a doubt, the piece that glues this record together. Seven minutes of sunny spells that will always remind me of the British countryside in the summer. The same goes for “Too Big To Quit”, but in any season of the year. “Westonbirt” would mix nicely with a few songs off of “From Here We Go Sublime” by The Field. If any track should be remixed, I’d say it’s this one, preferably by James Figurine, Ratatat, Andreas Tilliander and The Field. “Lending Library” is the most complex and twisted track of them all, but it manages to keep you tapping your feet, and with every listening there is some new element to discover. “Quint” should be featured in a film, preferably one with a lot of mystery and spies. And speaking of soundtracks, people at the BBC should definitely get hold of a copy of this record to replace The xx’s debut, which they still manage to use on every single show and documentary. “Saundersfoot” contains various sports sounds as percussion, snooker balls and sounds of Wimbledon, and it is probably the only track that will place Edwards’ sound close to other contemporary musicians like Four Tet or Gold Panda, who, funnily enough, has already made a remix of it. “Adventure Orchard”, the closing track, is like stretching after an intense exercise session. It smoothly brings your feet back to the ground, but the only problem is that it leaves you waiting for more and you have to press the play button to start all over again.

In the press release, Edwards admits to having listened to British music and becoming “ fascinated by that particular eccentricity that runs through a lot of folk, library, prog and dance music. Things like Mike Oldfield, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, The Orb, Art of Noise, Kevin Ayers, Virginia Astley, Andrew Poppy, Richard Skelton, Autechre.” Apparently, he was also inspired by the “ strange semi-organic sounds of modern string modelling synthesizers”, so he mixed them with real string instruments to see how many fake instruments he could bury under real ones. I suppose that the folktronica tag will be used more than ever in the reviews of this album, and it will be, for once, suitable. But it would be fairer if people just put it in the category of “ beautiful and inventive synthetic/organic music”.

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