Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Album Review: A.M. Architect - Pattern Language

Album Rating: B
As every child should know, mixing every colour of paint is disappointing. The result is a kind of infected brown instead of the wonder colour needed to elevate your finger painting to a level of brilliance not seen since Picasso. Music can work just the same: if you were to grab a drum track, throw in some guitar rhythms, and then pile on synths, distorted vocals, flute leads, maybe another drum track, then the same track reversed, keyboards, ambient hums, crackles. the occasional cough and god knows what else, you’d end up with a bit of a mess. Luckily, A.M. Architect are not you, because they know what they’re doing. When A.M. Architect decide to mix every instrument and style under the sun at once, the result doesn’t imitate a multi-carriage train wreck. Instead, it resembles a swarm: thousands of individual parts moving and acting as one.

It might then be a surprise to learn how Pattern Language defies its busy-ness (deliberate misspelling) to strive for a very sincere and emotionally calm form of instrumental hip-hop. Strong percussion and electric piano often lay down the tone for the myriad other parts to buzz around, making tracks feel as if they progress slowly despite how rapid the various clicks and plucks may feel. There are points where the cluster of noise might become a distraction from the melody and mood, but for the most part A.M. Architect keep it tight. Vocal cuts provide most of the emotion in Pattern Language, though it’s rarely the focus as rhythm and texture are given the frontman position.

At its most brilliant, Pattern Language plays with this fog of instruments to reveal individual elements that might have been ignored otherwise. An inspired moment in “Window” sees the vocals temporarily dominate to form a desperate, surreal freeze-frame in the middle of an incredibly rapid moving picture. “Pools of Light” acts similarly by repeatedly dunking the listener into the raging river of instrumentation with only brief moments of respite. Elsewhere the album does lose focus slightly, even bordering on dirgy at times, with tracks sometimes failing to go anywhere or flailing lifelessly. The fade-out outro of “Appalachain II” serves as a good example: it feels pointless.

This shouldn’t discourage anyone from checking out this incredibly unique and interesting album, but it can be said that it comprises of an A+ moment, some A’s and a handful of B/C grade tracks. For its hurried production process (the bandcamp page describes a manic creation, distortion and mixing of tracks), Pattern Language is rather sophisticated. Not quite a wonder colour but a long way off a muddy brown, despite the album cover.

Release date: February 5th, 2013
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