[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
More and more experimental electronic artists are toying with acoustic elements as time goes on. While the initial attempts by some were fumbling and somewhat clumsy, the collective abilities have increased over the years. Which brings me to Xtraplex’s recent signing Gottland, who over the course of a very short album demonstrate how this is supposed to be done. No, this isn’t a Gordon Lightfoot revival so just calm down. Gottland utilize plenty of synthetic wizardry in what they’re doing, forget whatever notions of pastoral glens or foggy hollows your mind is coalescing .
Oh you could play this in the countryside but you’d be run out of it.
The levels of abrasion and strangely placed harmonics pull me into this record repeatedly. As with all of what is on this label, you cannot judge what you’re hearing with just a casual listen. You must exclude all other stimuli to the point where only this is coming at you. And my, does Gottland come right at you. One thing which I’ve noticed some of these bands on Xtraplex do which others in the IDM sphere seem to have forgotten is to incorporate hip hop rhythms underneath heavily effected swells of digital feedback. Plaid used to do this, Autechre flirted with it, Squarepusher built up most of his legend weaving his bass guitar in and around truly groovy beats.
Gottland, by contrast, prefer to introduce the elements of each track individually. Gradually building up a mosaic of inter-connected, skin-tight electronics through which the rhythm pulses this way and that. Lazily mapping out the terrain and trajectory each composition is drawn from and moves along to; this isn’t easily done. A lot of people out there gripe at IDM, slinging every nasty invective they can in it’s direction but if they’d put down their Warp samplers and step away from Aphex, they would begin to see that this style is not only continually re-inventing itself, it is expanding further and further out from the skeletal beginnings of the early 1990s.
Some of the rhythmic figures and effects employed by Gottland have a near-jazz fluidity to them. The kind of versatility which comes only from those who are driven to give life to their artistic visions no matter where it leads. There’s something for just about every kind of taste on “Gottland”. How this album is put together is rather clever. All the prettiness and tranquility are dispensed with early on and we spend the latter 2/3 of what he’s done in an alternate state of claustrophobic mania grafted to detached, icy perfection. In between these eclectic existential workouts, that nagging acoustic guitar appears again teasingly as if to say everything could come apart at any moment. Best to savor the respite while you can. Another storm is surely brewing.