Somnambule - Writing About Music

Monolake ~ Polygon_Cities

Polygon_Cities is Monolake’s sixth full-length release and it’s a more varied work than its marshal predecessor, Momentum. Where that album verged on the rigid, Polygon_Cities explores a variety of tempos and atmospheres. Pipeline motors along at an unhurried mid-pace and stylistically would have fitted snugly onto Warp’s seminal Artificial Intelligence compilation back in ’93. Sometime around the four minute mark, however, a degree of unselfconscious complexity creeps into the mix, a counter-rhythm that throws the confident progress of the track unexpectedly into existential doubt. This element works retroactively to make the track much more contemporary.

CCTV picks up the pace as it sucks in whirling vortices then spits out pixellated dust devils to each side of its accelerating passage. North begins with a frozen blast that prompts expectations of Thomas Koner-esque icescapes. Instead a digital voice announces ‘Exit point 5.7 miles’ and the listener is conducted into Monolake’s musical vehicle and taken for a ride across Tron-like vistas. Axis comes closest to the Detroit template and recalls Carl Craig’s Landcruising transposed into something far less sensate.

Monolake music occupies a strange place that’s nowhere/somewhere, techno/not techno, electronica/not electronica. His approach to rhythm is subtly unpredictable. Even when it appears possible to accurately forecast the next few bars, best advice would be not to risk wagering anything significant on the certainty. There’s a constant, purposeful activity that’s much more reminiscent of Detroit than Berlin, but the crunchy rhythmtextures locate the music as post-Chain Reaction.

Polygon_Cities is seethingly virtual, its foundations apparently laid in machine-code. Brooding synth washes speak of nothing but ray-traced weather, pixellated mists that only partially obscure the landscape as it races by at impossible speeds. There’s something not exactly malevolent, but certainly reptilian about the music. Sexless cybernetic voices enumerate lengthy number sequences and snatches of digital instructions, their tenuous relationship to the human only serving to emphasise their distance from humanity. The substitution of rhythm with the frozen hum of penultimate track Wasteland finally underlines this feeling.
Colin Buttimer
September 2005
Published by e/i Magazine