REVIEW Macrodot : The Stand Alone Complex
Don't let the playful cartoonish drawing on the album cover fool you. Macrodot's latest release is an uncompromising deliverance of dark electronica - bursting with intense energy and hard-hitting breaks that would make the Chemical Brothers proud (or jealous?). Aside from the slightly hokey female voice that feels the need to introduce the band in track one (and who can really blame Macrodot, given the deejay's shadow most techno artists find themselves under), the sounds used on this album aren't your everyday run-of-the-mill Oakenfodder. While they pack the punch and production we might expect from a popular breakbeat ear-candy act like the Prodigy, this release isn't as repetitive or superficial. Instead, we're treated to lots of glitchy leftfield effects and some occasional downtempo leanings.
Also unlike typical techno acts, many of the songs do more than just build and break, build and break. Some even do the unthinkable and hint at a story or two with their progressions and chord changes. "Angel Whispers", for example, may start out "angelic" enough, but eventually slams my ears with bad-ass grimy bass lines, glitchy hats, intense air blasts, and reversed leads. Several of the tracks also feature guest female vocalists, although I found that the vocals didn't really add much to the already powerful mixes. They seemed to work better when applied as chopped up textures and aural seasoning than when included as a driving vocal force. "See the Light" features all kinds of wonderfully subtle robotic samples over its pumping bass and marching beat, while "Maroon Skies" crosses glitch-hop influences and soaring voices with the restless organic spawn of FSOL. "Top of the World" even introduces some subtle guitar effects to the glitchy trip-hop rhythms.
"She Knows What She's Doin" takes an interesting dubstep flavor, with the requisite wobble bass, but the vocals/samples feel out of place to me. This is quickly improved upon, however, by "You Took My Love", an old school influenced sample-laden track riding on the cusp of rap-metal moxie. "Rebuild" is next, a driving and relentless glitch-infused epic that easily stands as one of the highlights of this disc. Strangely enough, when the lead chords come in, this almost sounds like it could serve as a contemporary remix of a Depeche Mode track from the old "Barrel of a Gun" days, sans any synthpop vocals, of course. It's just got that cool bombastic, lo-fi synth sound to it, but with modern glitched-out percussion.
Something about "Something About You" feels a little too detuned or off-key, which is a strange approach for what could arguably be named one of the catchiest tracks on the album. The vocals are like a throwback to the old Freestyle days, and the song has a great groove to it. As the album nears its conclusion, the audio cohesion seems to be unraveling a little - chords are getting a little grating, and the doppelganger of Dennis Edwards rears his ugly head with the sampled vocals from "Don't Look any Further" - a song that I hated in 1984 and don't feel much better about today. (Glad Macrodot chopped that mofo's voice up a bit.) Ironically, the end of the release is marked by a song titled "Endless Hour" - a schizophrenic assault of buzzing bass, swelling tones, and blipping sequences.
In a genre where too many deejays try to play musicians, often resulting in albums that sound like one long remix gone unchecked, Macrodot is the exception. Although the release loses a little steam near the end, overall this is a fun listen. Even if you think you've already heard one breakbeat too many in your life time, you should check it out. I think you'll dig it.