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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Known Rebel - "Hollow"

Artist: Known Rebel
Album: Hollow
Year: 2011
Label: Tympanik Audio
Genre: Downtempo, IDM, Ambient
Website: www.tympanikaudio.com



Debut album from IDM duo Known Rebel. Looks like Tympanik took a chance with this unknown act, with mixed results.

Good stuff:
+ The general style is good and will appeal to a lot of people. Overall, Known Rebel goes for that chill, downtempo, pad-heavy with groovey beats sound. It's a little bit like Subheim or DNN. It's very accessible stuff while still being emotionally driven and meaningful.
+ The pads and melodies are really pretty and they float along effortlessly. They remind me a bit of some older IDM that I can't place at the moment - that sort of nostalgic, dreamy feel with a subtle melancholy behind it. The songs reminds me of a computer generated night time scene of a sparsely populated futuristic city - flashing lights, lots of sleek polished building material. Mechanical, but in a friendly way. Each song carries a similar mood, yet is different enough to maintain it's own identity. It sounds like they've already developed a recognizable style, and I hope they can keep building on this foundation.
+ The production is generally tight. There isn't a ton of stuff going on in these pieces, but the drums and synths are mixed together properly and there is a good amount of space in the mixes. For the most part the pieces all fit together well and there is a strong sense of unity between percussion and melodic content.
+ In a few tracks, such as "Neigh" and "Herz Aeon" there is some dubstep-y influence, whether it be a wobbly bassline (more in line with Mobthrow than Skrillex, thankfully!) or the half time groovey beat with the big reverb-ed snare. It's not really my thing, but it's done well and I think people will enjoy it.  "Herz Aeon" really captures the characteristics of electronica/post-industrial/idm/whaetver that are "hot" right now and does something interesting with it; making a very chill, enjoyable piece.
+ The Roel Funcken and Access to Arasaka remixes are well done and inject some nice, complex IDM percussion and glitches into the arrangements. The 2menthyBube101 mix takes "Helium-3" soaring into full on dubstep. Again, this isn't my thing, but it's done fairly convincingly (the pads and melodies sound really good with the distorted modulating bassline) and I think people will dig it.

Bad stuff:
- Despite pleasant sounds and a catchy style, the record still feels a bit amateur and 'standard', as is generally expected of a debut. Each song kind of plods along the same groove over and over without doing anything unpredictable or challenging. There aren't any spots of ear-catching programming, and the songs just kind of begin, go and end with no real tricks or frills. What I mean is that the song will start with 1 element of the song, then the others are slowly added at expected intervals. Once they're all there, they just go and go for a while, the beat drops, kicks back in with another melody and/or pad added for the second part of the track, then each element exits predictably until they all stop and that's the end (this is obviously a generalization - but you get the idea). Hopefully they can get a little more exciting on future work.
- The opening track "Anonymous" is a pretty bad attempt at something like Squarepusher - it has a nice pad, but they lather on a bunch of directionless breakbeats which clash terribly with it. On the plus side, a similar thing appears later in "Helium-3" and they pull it off with more success.
- The clunky, distorted beats of the Lucidstatic remix don't really mesh with, nor add anything to "Gathering of the Argonauts" and it sounds like he tried too hard to force a square peg into a round hole.

Known Rebel put up a solid debut album. While enjoyable to listen to, I doubt it's going to set any new standards. Still, these guys show a ton of potential on this record and I would wager that they are very likely to craft some fantastic stuff in the future. Keep your eye out for them. If you like chill, groovy stuff that you can put on in the background and won't have to pay too much attention to than check this out for sure. This is actually quite a good companion to the recent c.db.sn, as it seems to inhabit a similar sphere of emotional electronica, although this one is much less complex and more low-key.

Overall Rating: 7/10

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