Label: AtomnationScore: 7/10
For those that don’t know, Atomnation is an experimental Dutch electronica and techno label operating jointly between Berlin and Amsterdam, co-run by one of the ‘Enfant Terribles’ of the European electronic music scene, Applescal an artist who has been hotly tipped by sites such as Data Transmission as one to keep your eye on. His music is breezy, melodic and nostalgic ‘Radiohead-meets-Aphex Twin’ type electronics and, unsurprisingly the impressive roster that Atomnation have assembled pretty much fall into line with the same kind of sound. It is rare that a label has a discernable sound these days – I mean really discernable, as in you can tell it a mile off –but Atomnation truly buck that trend as resultantly are one of the most reliable, on-point labels working within their genre. If you see an Atomnation record, you buy it because you know you are going to get a slice of abstract, feel-good – if not a somewhat queasy – abstract techno that warms the cockles of even the most jaded of folk. Simple.
As a result, artists seem to gravitate towards the label rather than being sought out, the A&R policy is progressive in that they aren’t defined by tempo, more feel. It is no surprise then that NYC based, LA resident Portable Sunset’s breezy, warm and loving new EP has ended up on the label.
Opening number really sets the tone from the start with a swampy, lo-fi, Rephlex-esq synth line combining with a tight, bouncy techno/electro drum machine and some serious bass for a record like this. A retro sounding synth provides a sorrowful counterpoint to the exuberant warmth of the drums and original synth. It takes a while to get going but when the ‘rephlex’ synth line fully gets going its Goosebumps time! It’s Analord referencing goodness to be sure.
‘Feelings’ is an experimental pseudo-organic soundscape consisting of what sounds like gamelan, bell and chime samples – its sort of a filler tune as its so short, but it shows off some nice effect techniques.
‘Loft Mentality’ is 70s/80s retro ish. Lush, analogue sounding synth horns usher in a lovely, deep piano line overlayed over a repeating vocal sample and rugged yet light house leaning drums. The use of found sound and natural reverbs on the percussion lends an otherworldy feel to a strange tune that sounds a bit like a jazz-era mushroom trip which only intensifies as the track progresses.
‘Light Switch’ is another ode to electronic lounge and jazz fusion by using organic instrumention to create a kind of droney-non drone electronica tune. There are hints of vocals residing next to elongated organ lines and a constant ping-pong mid/low pulse that keeps the mind in check. Its sort of like atmospheric, noirish incidental movie music.
‘Home Late’ uses a swung electro beat to frame its lush yet haunting sound palette. The drums which at points barely register as more than clicks usher us into a Botchum Welt type of affair with swirling arpeggios combining with a funky bassline and a sorrow-laden harmonic bed.
All things said, this EP is an experimental slice of light house/techno music that takes in a lot of influences and renders them into a fulfilling whole. The moods he evokes change from track to track, giving the whole EP a feeling of wholeness as a wide range of human emotions have be catered to on this record.