Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Album Review: Sithu Aye - Invent the Universe

Album Rating: B
What better way to make something huge than to base it on the biggest concept known to man? Our universe has always been a mystery, and this will continue to be the case no matter how much science assists us. After all, our origins themselves are a puzzle - if the Big Bang theory occurred, for instance, how exactly did something arise from nothing? It all stems back to what highly-esteemed astronomer Carl Sagan once noted:

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

It’s incredibly convenient, then, that progressive artist Sithu Aye’s decided to devise his own universe. It’s compiled of about everything ours contains, but with a little more oomph. Pastures a striking green, skies a sterling cerulean. How Aye goes about creating this elaborate world is by extracting just a little bit of groove from his debut Cassini, a fair amount of Isles’s ambition, one snip here, another there, to contribute to what should be an all-encompassing end product.

Invent the Universe’s concept can be marked as Sithu Aye’s loftiest yet, but the funny thing’s that the music is actually less ambitious than its predecessor. Isles may have had a pretty vague message at the end of the day, but anything more would have been damned unnecessary - the music spoke for itself, and defined the EP as Sithu’s best work to date. This contrasts starkly to Invent the Universe, where the concept overshadows the music. Playful riffs, while enjoyable in their own right, go against the idea of inherently meaningful music, and this is the album’s most enduring flaw. Only in brief moments does the music step up and shine, such as the passage halfway through the album marked by “Nucleosynthesis.” The interlude serves as the pivotal moment where Sithu Aye’s vision of what the album should sound like actually matches up with what we hear, and it’s a stunning transition at that. Throughout the rest of Invent the Universe, the material feels too similar to Aye’s past releases to be a true match for the ambitious concept at hand. The album’s more or less a rehash of Cassini’s aural palette, but with the more refined style of Isles to guide it along. This isn’t enough for someone who believed Sithu Aye was onto something truly monumental, someone who expected more of a shift from immediately catchy riffs to lasting monuments.

While Invent the Universe isn’t quite the album we expected it to be, it’s great at what it does accomplish. “Grand Unification” is as bold an opener as ever, featuring blistering riffs and an unrelenting tempo to boot. This track - and guitarist David Maxim Picic’s impressive guest spot - provides a much-needed respite from the track’s caffeine-induced perseverance. Halcyon’s Plini even joins the fun on “Particles Collide,” providing a bit of flavor to keep the journey going. "Expansion" is arguably the strongest track here, superbly structured and containing all the landmark moments expected from Sithu. And experimentation with electronics is a very prevalent part of Invent the Universe - "Baryogenesis"'s intro speaks through glitchy hisses and shuffles, switching things up in just the right way. Experimentation meets familiarity strikingly well as a whole as a tasteful mix of past, present and future.

So where does Sithu Aye stand at the end of 2012? Well, fairly close to where he started - possessing brilliant ideas but not always knowing how to go about executing them. It’s admirable that Aye desires to create an album representative of the universe, but that doesn’t change the fact that his music simply hasn’t changed enough in order to let him meet this goal. Sithu’s trying to make a different flavor of music from not altering the formula; from Carl Sagan’s standpoint, this is highly problematic. Sithu Aye must first establish a more lasting sense of importance within his music before he’s able to tackle the achievements he aims for, but at least he's doing what he does best in the meantime - making crisp, funky grooves that stay with the listener.

Stream / purchase the album here.

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1. Invent the Universe

2. Grand Unification (feat. David Maxim Micic)
3. Expansion
4. Baryogenesis
5. Particles Collide (feat. Plini)
6. Nucleosynthesis (Interlude)
7. Recombination
8. Dark Ages
9. Formation
10. Pale Blue Dot

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