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Friday, May 15, 2009

Totakeke - "The Things That Disappear When I Close My Eyes"

Artist: Totakeke
Album: The Things That Disappear When I Close My Eyes
Year: 2009
Label: Tympanik Audio
Genre: Electro, IDM
Website: http://www.myspace.com/elekatota

Packaging: 4/10
1 Fold digipak. The cover graphic is a picture of a hallway turned sideways. It looks strangely ominous, and is of very high quality. Hope you really like that picture though because it appears on 3 out of the 4 panels. Totakeke has never been one to go all out on the artwork though.

Composition: 4/10
Knowing that Totakeke has released something like 6 cds within the past year and a half, I had pretty low expectations for this. CD1 opens with an awesome dark, epic and slightly orchestral ambient intro which builds into a nice downtempo piece. And then the album falls off. It seems like Totakeke was going for a more electro feel on this album, as electro-type synths are much more prevalent here than previous efforts, and the drums often take a back seat while layers of synths play. Now this isn’t inherently bad, but it’s not pulled off so well. It seems apparent that his prolific-ness has come to bite him in the ass, as this CD feels rushed and unfinished. It sounds like he tossed a whole bunch of ideas into each track, but didn’t take the time to iron them out into cohesive parts that mesh and flow. As a result we are presented with a jumble of synths, noises and beats that just sort of float there, each part doing its own thing ambivalent of where to proceed and how to interact with its cohorts. Even though it has its moments, it simply does not compare to the unique and well constructed material on eLeketota.

So if one (more) Totakeke CD wasn’t enough, “The Things That Disappear…” comes with a second cd (and if you pre-ordered you get a THIRD cd). The second CD has some alt versions of songs, a couple new ones and some remixes. The alt versions/remixes by Totakeke are totally unnecessary, as they are but pale shadows of the originals (this brings us to something like version 5 of “Pull The Plug”…just a little superfluous don’t you think?). The new songs are ok but suffer from the same afflictions as CD1, although I think I actually prefer them over CD1. The remixes are the best part of this whole album, but even still I prefer most of the bands’ original material. My favorite two remixes are Autoclav1.1 and Flint Glass because, not surprisingly, they sound much more like the remixer than the original artist. For the other remixers, if you like their original material you will probably like the remix. I wish the ZIA remix had been more like their “…No!” album though.

Production: 6.5/10
While the last few Totakeke albums had solid production, the production on this album is noticeably weaker. The tracks seem “too full” at times, as if every sound is vying for the listener’s attention instead of interlocking. In every song there are sounds that are louder than they should be and stand out too much in the mix, and the mixes themselves just seem muddier and messier than previous efforts. According to the linear notes Totakeke mixed and mastered this record himself, however I think it may have been wiser to hand this over to someone that has more experience with mastering.

Artistic Merit: 5/10
While it’s cool to hear Totakeke changing directions slightly, these tracks don’t feel complete enough to showcase success. As a result its one of those cases where the listener can say “oh it was better when he did his older style”. There is nothing here that he hasn’t done better in the past.

Flow: 5/10
It seems to me that most of these tracks lack direction. They are just some sounds which plod along to nowhere in particular and along the way meet up with some other sounds and then they go together for a while and then some leave and others come. There isn’t much cohesion and very little direction for any of it. Sometimes there are straightforward sections and sometimes there are glitch-fests, but not really any spectacular transitions. I find most of the record a bit hard to follow, mostly because the juxtaposition of sounds and sections is awkward and annoys me.

As a whole the record has an ok flow because he uses the same style of electro synths and the same sort of drum hits throughout so it sounds sort of uniform. Although I’d venture to say that it sounds too uniform and to some extent lacks diversity/variety.

Overall Rating: 4/10
Not surprisingly, after releasing about 4 albums/6 CDs in the last year and a half Totakeke has started to lose his touch. “The Things That Disappear…” lacks focus and cohesion and simply feels unfinished. It’s not all bad and it has it’s moments, but when compared to his previous output it simply does not hold up. In addition, the fact that there are so many remixes, alternate versions of songs, and songs that appear on free samplers/compilations just adds to the over-saturation of Totakeke material this year. There are what 4 or 5 versions of “Pull The Plug” (and probably as many of other songs), with the original being by far the best. I think that says all that needs to be said. Did we really need a new Totakeke this year? No. This could have waited 6 or 8 or 20 months until it was fully crafted, developed and polished. Since I now own 6 or 7 Totakeke CDs, and several comps that feature his tracks, I can honestly say that I will probably never listen to this one again. My advice to Totakeke is: take some time off, remember the things that made eLeketota great and the reasons why you made it, and take your time with the next album.

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