the_empath – Meanwhile

review_theempath_m

CD, Hymen, 2011
www.subroom.com

Five years is a long time to get an album together. Sometimes the time taken is a good thing; otherwise, it’s occasionally disappointing. This is not the case here. Having already been aware of the_empath from the really quite excellent “Miwak Twelve” release from Hymen, this album came as an interesting and varied surprise. This is time travel in music form.

“Meanwhile” wasn’t especially designed to flow from one track to another. It was designed to show how Mike Erkau (alias the_empath) had grown as an artist in five years, and it’s an interesting journey. It starts quite rhythmically, but soon slides into soothing IDM fare. Fans of early Autechre and Gridlock should find this release massively satisfying as it covers quite a bit of territory – from crunchy beats, to chilled-out soundscapes.

Starting with the really quite beautiful “At the Heart of it All” (which was featured on the above-mentioned “Miwak Twelve”), the music gets the listener’s attention from the start. It’s a beautiful melody that swells with this sound that seems like raindrops, followed by guitars, glitches and beats that carry you off somewhere else. The collected tracks have this otherworldly quality to them, even if they have little else in common. “Planetarium” is downright creepy, with stretched sounds and fast, yet uneasy, synth lines before any beat kicks in. “Burden of the Past” is more chunky and beat driven, with what sounds like someone smashing chains around, and “Waldmensch” brings the release to an end with a soothing sound that has a vague similarity to some early Ulrich Schnauss. I think the only thing that could possibly let this release down is some of the track placement, as occasionally tracks tend to jolt you out of a certain space and into another, which can be a little disruptive on headphones. Despite that, the music remains interesting.

I say that each track has little in common with each other, but I think that is where the strength lies in this release. It shows that the_empath has a lot more going for his music, and there is a lot to hear for those who get into it. This is a varied, interesting and worthwhile journey for any electronic music aficionado.

[9/10]

– Kate Turgoose

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