Review by pHonaut
Datacide: Flowerhead (RI026)
by Tetsu Inoue and Atom Heart

By the time the third Datacide album was released, a definite evolution in sound was becoming apparent. Datacide's first album was made almost 6 years ago and consisted mostly of finely tweaked studio sessions of nosebleed techno along with a few other non-pounding but just-as- intense tracks, plus a wonderful 20-minute beatless track named "Mindloop." When the second album came out on the then-fledgling Fax label, a certain change of pace could be heard.

Differing drastically from previous material, Datacide II contained several abstract sound collages and a single foot-stomping cut "Head Dance." For the most part, this album was made up of beatless pieces containing computer noises and random synths organized into a lo-fi sci-fi soundtrack for Buddhist computer programmers. Datacide II was the second disc released by Fax in '94, and near the end of that year another Datacide album came out on Atom Heart's new label Rather Interesting. Here we are in '98 and many strange things have happened since, but this album is every bit as much of a prize as the day it came out, and perhaps even more so now.

The peculiar thing about Flowerhead is that it has this certain slow-motion feel to it. Most of the melodies float and glide at a snail's pace, without sacrificing any detail or quality. In fact, such a format is favorable for an album like this because it allows the listener to hear out the fine structure in the songs. Urban environmental recordings blend a sense of life and reality within the sequenced electronic layers. And there are plenty of layers. Quirky intros and extended outro-drifts break up the the album's content and make it a bit more unpredictable. All the tracks are beat-oriented chillages soaked in a sort of retro-60's tripcloud. Ranging from the deep, mysterious vibe of Flashback Signal to the more loungey orientation of the title track "Flowerhead," each song has very distinct sound that sets it apart from the others. Guided by master psychedelegates Atom Heart and Tetsu Inoue, Flowerhead was an instant sensation in modern ambient circuits and, in my opinion, certainly deserves the highly acclaimed status of "Desert Island Disc." Alright, enough...on to the individual track breakdown:

  1. Flashback Signal - Near the beginning I can immediately recognize the background ambience from Cymatic Scan mixed in with a few other sounds. An organ swims into the picture and judging from its sound, I can't really tell whether it's of the melted-hippy rock variety or the mad pipings of some reclusive inhabitant of the local dark castle as he rouses the dead. Either way, that sound is so evocative and otherworldly that the adventurous ambient head already knows she's in for a real treat! Pulsating gobs of bass seep in from the darkish quagmire, and a rhythm is already beginning to take shape. Do not be alarmed by the extreme binary amplified nature of the bass and snare drums, this is an Experiment, and for best results take a few long, deep breaths.

  2. Flowerhead - We begin with quirky sonic wierdness. First a bandpassed laugh of sorts, and then...Techno! Forty looong seconds of your favorite Four-on-the-Floor archetype, monochannel style. Next, a hybrid noise of what sounds to me like a yodeling Porky Pig and a folk singer of eastern (?) origin after simultaneously meeting the digital butcher. You got me. But now, our song begins and "a splendid time is guaranteed for all." This is digital funk in its infancy. A subtle looping of funk guitar is placed alongside a lush, organic bassline. Again, binary amplified. This type of instrumental separation yields some curious results when your home stereo setup involves asymmetrical loudspeaker positions. Sounds seem to come from odd locations. An idle horn player breathes out a slow, mellow riff, distant like a subway-reverbed street musician and I feel like there's some sort of Carnival of Soul going on not too far from here. The sound is thick, rich, and pleasant.

  3. Deep Chair - The mere mention of "Deep Chair" to any aspiring headphonaut and instantly their eyes get all narrow and squinty, quickly accompanied by a broad, lazy smile that says, "spark it up, baby." The Deep Chair is where you *should* be listening to this quarter-hour beauty. Beginning with several long, backwards notes and some brightened backgrounds, it doesn't take long for other things to start fading in, one by one, until the song takes on a more complex appeal. Shouting children playing (both forwards and in reverse), basslines, relaxing hand toms, and starlike descending tones come together to create a nice groovey tune. Occasionally, our dynamic duo dumps piles of bass on your head and more sequences of kaleidoscopic synths weave a futuristic aural tapestry right before your eyes. I imagine this song would go over well at any outdoor type mountain gathering, day or night... but where to find the 12-foot drivers to handle them low frequencies?

  4. So Much Light - As usual, the song title makes much more sense after you've heard the track itself. An enveloping wave of tones is introduced and repeats itself in series. Other more ethereal sounds breeze through now and then, and after a couple minutes a solid bass drum (or would that be a wave?) is pointing out the rhythm. Some muffled clap-like sounds and another more ambiguous percussive noise fill it out. This is all a setup for what I think of as the song's main element and the cause for the title. It's a whistle sound trilling out a great optimistic (for want of a better word) melody. The melody is designed in such a way that the ending *is* the beginning and to try and distinguish where it begins and ends is futile. It just Is. And you just Are. And that's the way it should be. Now don't you feel happy?

  5. 60's Out Of Tune - Since this seems to be the most verbose RI review yet, I think I'll leave this one be. Suffice it to say that it shares qualities with "Meditation Bank" from Datacide II and is an appropriate ending for such a hefty album.


What did you think of this CD? Mail your reviews to 2350.org

FAX Reviews and Tracklistings
www.2350.org