Boomkat Product Review:
Robert Henke a.k.a. Monolake continues his pursuit of a dystopian techno muse deep into the machine with VLSI, his archaeological excavation of early digital sampling and synthesiser technology, aided and abetted by co-production from Electric Indigo and mixed by Mark Ernestus and Herr Henke.
Preceded by a series of semi-cryptic singles which hinted at the concept behind VSLI - an acronym for Very Large Scale Integration; the process of integrating thousands of transistors on a single chip - both in their circuit-board artwork and sheer digital patina, his first album in four years forms the mothership, or should we say motherboard, proper for a meticulous study in the characteristics and context of digital music production, and, by extension, the influence of high tech Silicon Valley companies over government, society, art.
In a fine bind of concept and proof, that influence manifests itself metaphorically in the album’s unquestionably dark, nervy tone and literally in its liner notes, which look to this turning point of technological advance in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as the square root of early techno, its component parts and its semiotic relatives, “UK breakbeat and dubstep, african dance rhythms, future glitch, ambient and a lot of amazing academic computer music”.
The results, produced between 2014-2016 subsequent to his artistic residency at CCRMA, Stanford, CA in 2013, could be said to counter the early, new age inspired optimism of digital music production for the most part, using a palette of sci-fi noir cinematic tones that signify Hollywood and California’s integral relationship with futuristic technology, as implied in the scores of Bladerunner and T2, for example.
However there are moments of more romantic redemption in the likes of Unit, and we’d always consider a sense of optimism to any rhythm based music, so its inimitably sleek yet jabbing Linndrum grooves work to correct the balance from that out-and-out Berlin scowl “darkness” that takes itself a bit too seriously.
There’s no huge surprises, but do expect a subtle refinement of Monolake’s signature atmospheres and whirring rhythmechanics.