Echo Echo is back with a new release. The Waveform Transmitter’s Alasdair McAlley takes a look at the new Alex Bau EP, Zenstory.
Whether we like or not, change, along with birth and death, is the only constant in this universe. So, when an artist switches creative direction they are taking a commercial risk, often resulting in split opinions. I’ve been guilty of getting hot and bothered when my favourite band or musician decides they want to meddle in glitch K-pop donk when I wanted another album of noodling acoustic jazz triangle.
Take Alex Bau, creator of the Credo label. Since 2010 he’s released a steady stream of techno and drone, and played plenty of super-sweaty, nose-bleed inducing, DJ sets. I can only guess what fans think of his latest EP release Zenstory on Echo Echo.
It opens as it means to go on with Clouds that has a huge nod to Linkwood. When you think synthwave what do you see? Neon, driving at night, Miami, 1986? Well, this is a rainy Berlin, Sunday night, 2018. Quiet and hypnotic, it’s deceptively simple on first listen, but the layering is subtlety impressive with the bass gradually taking centre stage.
Contour is the sort of track that sounds great anywhere. You start to itch for the breakdown, but it never comes and all for the better too. Imagine digging at your local record store. It’s the track you’d start nodding to whilst you flip through the racks. Then after 5 minutes you stop, look up and think – what the hell is this? You’re soon asking the folks behind the till because we don’t do Shazam.
Then we hit the down-tempo electronic jackpot. Zenstory (prelude) begins as if we’re on Earth above a waterfall in Cumbria, UK on a dank autumn evening before panning out and up, into the stratosphere, water replaced with the hiss of static telecommunications. After 3 minutes we’re well into orbit with a singing, ethereal, single chord. By the time the full track starts, we’re in deep space and verging on Alex’s more familiar drone territory. The chord is further away with echoes of Autechre, particularly with the incoherent ramblings over an audio line. As the incessant chord throbs and modulates, it slowly fills up the soundscape and before you know it, communication is cut and we’re intergalactic.
Switching up keeps an artist fresh and evolving. It might not work every-time but when it does, like here, then it makes the leap of faith seem a distant happy memory.
Alex Bau, Zenstory, is available now via Echo Echo. Grab your copy here.