Dutch producer Radial aka Jeroen Liebregts has dropped his sophomore full-length album Crux. He’s self-released this on self-titled label Radial Records, and is apparently refreshed now he has artistic freedom. He has made most of Crux with self-built analog software.
‘Cooze Intro’ leads the listener into a contemplative future garage atmosphere of syncopated percussion of sampled live instrumentation, which compliments layers of skittering vox samples, off-beat korg stabs and space of ambient background sounds.
‘Excavated’ follows on from the intro and travels back into 4-4 techno spectrum. It still contains leaking elements of synth tones from the intro, whilst working with rolling lower basslines and complimented layered clattering for a resulted trance-like overtone.
‘Cosmetics’ presents somewhat of a more tense and paranoid vibe of urban technophobia with its pounding lower kicks and higher duo-tones of alarm, punctuated by arpeggios of bubbling chimes and building lower elements of muffled whirring reverberation, that serve to agitate further rather than relax the listener, and perhaps kick them on further into hypnosis.
‘Fifth Wheel’ relaxes into more of a spacious and danceable jam, before progressing into the thrumming and driving Knight Rider theme-eque riff of ‘Background’, which is quite nice in its subtlety and minimalism of elements. Unfortunately at this point, I’m starting to lose interest in Crux.
Next for the digital release is a bonus track entitled ‘Smoking Break’, which like ‘Cooze Intro’ break through a syncopation of percussion, whilst is kept harmonised by a simple off-key synth melody for an organic and funky result. It perks my interest up momentarily, but I know it’s going back to flat 4-4 again.
This makes way for the more trancey and jangley 4-4 of ‘Tunnels’, somewhat starkly mechanical and revisiting previous frenetic nervousness of ‘Cosmetics’, except with a bit more space and less tension. ‘Karplus’ takes us back to aforementioned state of urban claustrophobia within its small room panicked reverberating and overpowering lower synth tones, and Bodzin-esque higher tones which decay before, breaking right back into the same riff with more power, although the elements remain the same as before. I say Bodzin-esque, because the track comes off as an imitation of Herzblut-style elements.
Track ‘Tipsy’ is quite frankly a mess. The annoying doopley higher keys meander around like Radial was producing this track when he was completely pissed and then forgot that he accidentally pressed it on 12”. I think it really discredits him to even contemplate putting out a track like this. It fits into the spectrum of the album, but that reflects on the album and affected my listening experience. If this is what “artistic freedom” is, perhaps he should be a little less free.
‘Another Trail’ kept on the same path of urban discomfort and pounding beats, which after many tracks of the same ol’-same ol’, I’d quite frankly had enough. Finale ‘Equation Outro’ came off as an incomplete shadow of Autechre or Valence Drakes, and even then I’m being nice.
For me personally, Crux dragged on way too long. I mean, I get it. It’s techno, right? But that doesn’t mean techno listeners lap up every beats they hear. Or at least I hope not. The elements of hypnosis in the majority of Crux weren’t refined or original enough to really capture me, and because of lack of any real interesting elements or developments, most of the tracks ended up making me yawn halfway through. Even if the tech tracks were shorter, they wouldn’t be something I’d ever come back to as a listener.
If he made more tracks like his first two bonus ones, I might contemplate giving his gear another listen, but for now I’m sadly reminded of how much uninspiring tech there is out there. I understand that he made a lot of this with analog software, but that doesn’t get bonus points with me. For me, it’s more about end product, not what medium an artist uses. I like a lot of Radial’s use of space in atmosphere, but in the end it’s all filler, no real killer.
5.5 out of 10 Haarp Strings
Written by Kristian Hatton.