Boomkat Product Review:
Lieven Martens (fka Dolphins into the Future) takes a left turn with this oddball side of future-retro electro-medieval glimmers originally written for Spencer Clark's "Avatar Blue" project. RIYL James Ferraro, Klein, Rene Hell.
While at this stage in his career Martens is best known for veil-piercing field recording work under his own name, plenty of us remember his tenure as Dolphins into the Future when he was operating in sonic spaces closer to James Ferraro and Spencer Clark, releasing on labels like Not Not Fun and Clark's own Pacific City Sound Visions. "Música Azul" nods to this era without committing to repetition; Martens was asked by Clark to contribute to his 2019 performance of "Avatar Blue", a project that imagined a soundtrack to James Cameron's as-yet-unmade "Avatar 2". After being shown the melody lines in a photoshop mock-up, Martens developed the piece from partial improvisations made on the exhibition's opening night at Antwerp's Het Bos, editing them down and reworking in the studio "for optimal home listening".
The music revolves around a central musical theme that's played on canned medieval instrumentation - electronic lutes, flutes, harps and harpsichords - and backed with skippy rhythms made from clipped acoustic percussion and wobbly TV theme synths that wouldn't sound out of place on a Ghost Box or Trunk release. There's a daft quality that lifts the music into its own dimension, and the joke doesn't wear thin - the album swiftly rattles through different interpretations of the theme, running it through alternative sets of sounds and using slightly different constructions throughout. It's movement and uneasiness that Martens uses to provoke our senses, with an approach that's closer to the brittle accompaniment we might have heard on a Windows 3.1 encyclopedia or "Myst"-style videogame.
His themes are locked into an early '00s interpretation of the European past, and sound unsettlingly plastique without absorbing the usual hallmarks. There's no tape warble or blushing psychedelia here - just dry, awkward hopefulness and painfully referential presets that force us to consider exactly what it is we're listening to, and why.