After the fog
What a day. It’s the last day of October and I am sitting on the terrace on a clear blue day, the sun is shining, it’s the weekend, and it’s warmer than on quite a lot of other days this year that had claimed to belong to the summer. And I’m wondering. Does the sun ever shine in the world of Dub Techno?
Plenty of the best known artists in this part of the music world hail from places like Iceland, Lithuania or Finland, and if they’re from North America it’s usually not the sunny beaches of California or Florida. The cold is quite a topic in Dub Techno – just look at Deepchord’s “Coldest Season”.
It seems to be a much more suitable topic than, let’s say, the humidity of a rainforest. Dub Techno is an ice cold shot of vodka, not a Pina Colada. It’s the opposite of Balearic gaiety.
Or is it?
As you might have guessed by now, the whole question popped up when I listened to “Parallel Moves”, the new Fluxion Album. An album that is so full of sun and friendliness, full of tranquility and warmth that you feel compelled to ask yourself whether this really qualifies as Dub Techno.
Not that it really matters much. At least not to me – I like it when artists of this genre move beyond the already fuzzy boundaries of Dub Techno, especially when it’s not just the obvious choice of slipping into Ambient. This is where Konstantinos Soublis starts on “Parallel Moves”, taking his time to build the first track “Sol” – the title is in no way programmatic of course, but putting the sun first seems like a statement.
“Sol” sets the tone for the whole album, having all the time in the world, endlessly relaxed grooves that gradually rise from the ambient setting like the sun rising slower than on all other days, in the middle of the summer. It’s the tranquility of a morning with no one else around and not even the wind stirring the seas.
The title track is a particularly intriguing work of art – dubby with its soft stabs, minimal in its structure, but on top it’s telling a warm and playful story, just a few notes that are nonchalantly strewn across the beat, like a slightly twisted love story that is secretly weaving itself through the everyday life of a little town that hasn’t seen a lot of change and is happy with the way things are.
This is what makes “Parallel Moves” so special – it may be some kind of Minimal Dub Techno at heart, but there’s always a delicate but distinctive layer on top, created by nothing but a few notes played on instruments that are strangers in world of Dub Techno. Guitars are gently plucked here and there, we can hear warm and deep bells and organs, and on the expertly stumbling “You Are” even some quite organic drum licks that could have come from Four Tet’s “Rounds” album.
This track is a wonderful little thing, picking up intensity slowly, guitar and kick drum defining the beat more and more and integrating the crooked little snare loop until the groove is complete, all the while telling another short little story as if drifting in like the wind through a door accidentally left open in an episode of a Jacques Tati movie, ruffling the hair of a kid – it doesn’t mean more than it is. A moment.
“In Limbo” is another one of these double layer pieces, with a very straightforward kick below and that other layer of guitar notes and slightly ominous electric piano sounds that simply refuse to acknowledge the underlying groove, telling a wholly different story – and as much as they may seem to not relate to another, they add up to a kind of dance theatre soundtrack that leaves it up to the listener to imagine what it is that is told behind the rhythm.
Soublis is a friendly storyteller, one that is able to use only what’s necessary, not describing in detail but rather conveying a mood, even if it’s just this lazy sunbed mood that most folks associate with one or the other Ibiza beach – like in “Correlation”, a track that doesn’t really do much, other than that it lets you stay where you are for hours on end, being grateful that nothing ever happens and your soul can take a rest.
Several times on this album the tracks gently build as if not to wake you up too quickly, hoping the mood would enter your last minutes of sleep to blur the lines between dreaming and wakefulness, to let you fade softly into the day, one that is full of sun and hope and effortless equilibrium. Try waking up to “Spreads”. I bet it will be a good day.
The more you listen the more these moods and story-like layers have this strange effect of diverting you from whatever might have bothered you until the needle hit the record. You just can’t escape the optimism and warmth of a track like “Passage”. It reminds me of when Ada and a few other friendly people added empathy and positivity, love and emotion to Minimal, shamelessly hugging the world until it smiled.
Still – it’s good that “Parallel Moves” is not all smiles and happiness. There are things going on behind the innocently drifting white curtains of the beach villa, secrets are hinted at, like shadows moving behind them, as in “In Limbo” or in “Settling Dust”, a track that lets you wonder what might come into view after the dust has settled. Or “Blue And Yellow” with its wonky guitar and drunk-in-the-desert kind of mood.
The epilogue – “Duet” – is a statement by itself, a small etude-like piano piece that is accompanied by a little bit of bass and some Dub Techno stabs with plenty of echo – a highly unlikely combination that somehow works and makes for a wondrous little goodbye.
The sun has started to disappear on the horizon, and the temperatures are starting to reach regular Dub Techno levels again. It’s time to move back inside and give this album another spin – in the coziness of the living room, on the big speakers. Dub Techno and red wine. Can you imagine?
Release for review:
FLUXION – PARALLEL MOVES – VIBRANT MUSIC – VMR016