[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Album three from Roberto Donato’s Monade is yet again another unexpected turn and a massive leap forward. Into the realms of beauty our man charges with ‘Puni’, a record dedicated to the exploration of solitude, reflection, memory and regret. It almost serves as the antithesis to the label’s previous delivery from Sluggart, but not to worry, there’s no chain of flowers waiting to pounce on you with Monade’s latest. Quite the opposite, actually, the tentacled electronic scenery appears lush and green but it’s an overgrown monstrosity the closer you get to it. Monade are quietly re-writing the rule book when it comes to ambient experimentalism in music, nothing becomes clearer as you keep listening; the divisions of sight and sound multiply into an endless cascade… each melody line becoming an organism unto itself.
But I shouldn’t be surprised by what he’s done here, the creative process of Monade has made (quiet!) him stand out easily from the others on his label and that’s hardly a coincidence. His music has a much more wide open feel to it, you can picture yourself galloping across vast and deserted expanses with nothing more than the stars to guide you. Sergio Leone would be very impressed with the vivid landscapes Monade paints with his equipment; like a finely detailed eggshell tempura fresco slowly drying in the late autumn sun which gives up it’s secrets after the tourists have put away their cameras, the wet clicking of the lenses ricocheting off the walls… these creations are alive, I have played through ‘Puni’ for weeks now attempting to wring out those hidden features but eventually you must look away and get your thoughts down before they vanish.
Which is something this release does quite well: evaporate before you even have time to understand what you’ve just heard. It might be maddening to some but I relished the challenge this album presented to me upon receiving it. We’ve spent some quality time together and it leads me to a further understanding of the work at hand; in much the same way a curator in a museum zealously guards his favorites, oftentimes staying up late into the night just drinking it all in so I have had some intent listening sessions in the small hours with ‘Puni’. Everyone else may have gone to bed but this material won’t let me, these celebrations of color and light are a cunning lure…
Even at his most sparsely transitional moments, Monade’s music has the ability to transcend the four walls we all entomb ourselves in. Either knowingly or not, our race quite giddily accepts the limitations of the mind and willingly inhabits the gilded cage of contented consumerism. Donato slyly removes this safety net and shoves us out onto the tightrope, goading us on with uncompromising artistic integrity, keeping the circus below in full swing through his musical machinations. I found that I had to let go of a lot of things to get through to the other side of this one, it has all the trappings of a simple collection but this array is an ever-changing concerto which rises and falls on standards we cannot imagine.
Another reason to celebrate his latest is that it is also the twentieth release which Xtraplex have put out. Only now does the true scope of their vision begin to materialize, they are now developing at a geometric rate. Over the last year, this small label from Belgium has begun to hit it’s stride; with a stable of artists who are doing the best work of their careers. If you do not know them or if you’ve been debating checking them out then now is the time to do so. Against a tide of dismissive critics and those still desperately clinging to the sinking ship that is Warptronica, Xtraplex demonstrate a favorite saying of mine: Even the smallest candle burns brighter in the dark. Making the ordinary into the extraordinary is what they do with each and every last thing they unleash; the last three years have been remarkable.