Wednesday, March 10, 1999

ILLER THAN ILLBIENT

Posted By on Wed, Mar 10, 1999 at 12:00 AM

Monaural’s instrumental music crosses space jazz and dub with remixology, turntablism and electronica, creating some hypnotic interference patterns. Never falling into complete electronic abstraction, this Detroit trio reinforces its musical structures through repetition. The motifs are captivating, especially on "A," which combines Jah Wobble-style bass, scraps of Jamaican dub poetry, ghostly electronic flourishes and a drum machine that echoes the minimalist funk aesthetic of Martin Hannett’s productions for the Factory label. When these studio denizens aren’t lost in icy cool, dubby trance-outs, they’re flirting with the fire of drum-and-bass. As with the rest of its work, Monaural fluidly incorporates both live instrumentation and electronics into its underground breakbeat excursions, with some particularly impressive acoustic drum work in a genre more noted for drum machine overdrive. A title like "Last Exit" might evoke the bassisms of Bill Laswell, but the grooves on this record are deeper than most in the Axiom catalog. The shadowy sounds and alien echoes culminate in the closing shower of synth on "Icebox," a mellow end to a long-awaited full-length debut.

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