EBM, IDM, acid and big beat techno – New York producers Aaron David Ross and Matthew Arkell aka Gatekeeper promise all this and an ‘immersive audiovisual experience’ that comprises a game environment and various other interactive experiences to accompany this album. The game analogy is central here. What remains undeveloped in the tracks themselves always awaits that subtext – the visual platform – to breathe more than just a half-life into these compositions. Foley-like events are built into the main body of the work but the key point is whether this material can stand alone without the visuals.
This is shiny Imax cinema dance-lite which references as many old school ‘dance’ genres as it has transitions, rolling its sleeves up Miami Vice style in homage to its icons. The 303 lines are clean and the pads are jet washed with little of the rough and tumble of old Detroit, or indeed any of the burnt horizons that characterise much contemporary dance music pushing the envelope between now and then.
Pre-Gen comes closest to contemporary contexts, constructing a groove that glistens with abstract possibilities. When the pinball/gaming table melodies appear they are shaded by more nimble chiptuners like Rustie, who have a more hands on feel for both the surface and the resonance of such emulations. Tree Drum develops well but it feels like a hard won battle in the context of an overall where the scenarios are overplayed, the backgrounds too knowingly grandiose, with the whole falling short as a result.
There is a concerted effort here to meld a steely, cinematic aesthetic with an appraisal of current dance music moves. Its high gloss sheen ably plays with the surfaces but like that decision you face as you enter a garish McCinema foyer – would you like large or extra large? – this offering leaves you feeling, in the metaphorical popcorn stakes at least, that you might have bitten off more than you would comfortably like to chew.