Boomkat Product Review:
Atom is an audiovisual project initiated by Monolake's Robert Henke in conjunction with visual artist Christopher Bauder, who created a matrix of 64 illuminated helium balloons, the motion of which could then be controlled by the triggering of auditory events. This floating, three dimensional sonogram is reproduced at various states of transition via photos printed in the inner sleeve, and even in stasis, the balloons look to be spectacularly well choreographed (if ever so slightly like an overly regimented birthday party), but as ever with a CD release like this, the question is: does the music work as a stand-alone entity, divorced from its intended cross-platform, performative context? Henke leans towards more experimental sound designs on the album, removed from the full-blooded beat constructions of the Monolake output, though nor is his palette restricted to mere textures and drone tones: there's a Raster Noton-like motorised feel to 'Metropol', while the glorious percussive jangle of 'Quad Planar' is suggestive of Mark Fell's more esoteric software experiments. In fact, although the disc is bookended by roomy, beatless ambient pieces, there's little here that would fit in with the well-trodden conventions of installation-based sound art. 'Shift Register' introduces piano to the largely very abstract electronic soundset, something expanded upon brilliantly by 'First Contact' which integrates austere yet sturdily hammered out key-work into an evolving, sophisticated network of drum sequences. Towards the end of the record we're offered glimpses of more conventionally Henke-esque material: both 'Diagonal' and Crossing' flirt with explicitly techno-influenced music, and the latter in particular excels as a sonically thrilling piece of next gen clicks'n'cuts electronica. Even without the accompanying spectacle Atom makes for an engrossing project, and another winning musical departure for one of electronic music's most skillful producers.