The Algorithm - Polymorphic Code
Clearly it has been an age since I cast words into the web void. That's why I've decided to go from famine to feast with a molecular breakdown of an album I am developing a 'healthy' obsession for. The album is Polymorphic Code by electronic music space inhabitants / dominators The Algorithm. Although this music project truly touches upon a lot of sub-genres (dubstep, drum and bass, trance, IDM, mathcore, djent, progressive metal), let's just play simple and call it all electronic.
My plan is to follow this post with a gentle turfing over of Octopus 4.
I feel I need to personally thank the master behind this project, Rémi Gallego, a French (wow!, you mean the name didn't give it away?) musician who's created the melodic equivalent of a cure for sitting still. It's musical ADHD designed to aid and abet the distraction pandemic currently burning too many generations to categorise effectively in this post.
If you're the kind of person who finds themselves endlessly flicking between tracks, then now you have a reason not to feel guilty for doing so, because the chances are, if you listen to The Algorithm, the music is already one step ahead and has beaten you on the pea-sized attention span stakes.
'How the hell was this album patched together and pulled off so effortlessly?' you may find yourself asking until the answer requires an essay. Despite it being a multi-generic musical soup, the opening track:
Handshake is tweaked tastefully to prevent it from sounding like a shape shifting organism. The opening few seconds are ghostly, conjuring images of an alien presence hovering just behind the veil of a horizon. The message is fairly clear: something's coming and it doesn't care what's in the way. The door opens on a shape that takes around 25 minutes to emerge.
Beyond this semi-formed shape is a blast of machine-gun bass drum kicks, with synthesizer arpeggios leaping in broken rhythms. The sound is always full, constantly changing, and permanently about to reach a climax that will invariably pass on to some other pattern, theme or phrase. Distracted yet? Somehow it still works, but how? My guess is because this Frenchman doesn't wake every day to hear the world as many people do. The world of sound and of noise is chaos-ridden, and it's his job to shape it. To add to this, he links the tracks (and indeed the entire album) by:
A - Consistency of melody (helping to draw your attention away from the continuous genre shift)
B - Consistency of rhythm (knowing full well how rhythms from even very different genres have a significant crossover potential)
C - Linking the tracks together using music motifs (I made this term up on the spot, but it's basically when a particular phrase is played quietly early on, then used as a focal point down the line).
Despite the constant shift, this music has been carefully worked out (unsurprisingly even more so than a simple pop hook). And yet, these tracks are littered with hooks. Hook after hook after hook, so boredom is no longer an option.
This track is a musical game of pass the parcel involving only two players. Player 1 is drummy and bassy and trancey and likes chilling while their mind casually fills in the gaps left by a soft pulse and simple beat, while Player 2 is pissed because someone told them that a bucket of hundreds and thousands isn't an acceptable musical breakfast. Just in case you're wondering, Player 2 isn't so laid back. They're a bit of a screaming, sprinting one arm push up on legs. They also hate Tom Selleck (sorry for this recurring theme, but who hates Tom Selleck?, only nubes).
Having refreshed myself with a bike ride through sheets of cutting rain, I am now ready to complete this blog post.
Around the 3 minute mark this track begins to slow down, a fact which would please my fictional Player 1 more than the frantic, muscle-bludgeoned Player 2. The tension then builds to a final climax of bleepity bleep and metal riffage. Then a little motif comes in, a suggestion of what's coming directly after.
To say that this track is one for drummers does, and also doesn't work. The initial snare work will bring about goosebumps among certain members of the percussion community, but pretty much every track features impressive drum work. The unique Algorithmic approach of creating tracks that seem to span off in many directions yet have the symmetry of an ice crystal, features again here. The opening sequence soon moves into djenty riffs and rhythms before negotiating a host of other genres and returning, characteristically back to its djentist roots. In my opinion it's one of the best tracks on the album.
The djent exposure in the previous track is magnified in the opening of Access Granted. At first I found this to be too much, until, like my curry breakthrough period, I came to love its nihilistic intensity. To keep things interesting it flips back and forth between styles, still preserving coherence with a seamless brilliance I haven't comes across before in music. Some aspects of this track can only be expressed by actually setting up my drumkit and demonstrating how they're executed. Given the restrictions of the blog medium, I think I'll stick to words and just say Access Granted is manic, caustically rendered, organised chaos.
I've repeatedly made a mental note to mention that exactly between the 28th and 29th seconds there's a drum roll used to sex up part of the introduction. I know this observation is going to galvanise my music-nube status, but what the hell, I'm one of a global bevy of skinny, nervy, musical eclecticist-analysts. Although I want to pick holes in the transition that comes next, I found myself humbled by how slick it is. It moves to a breakbeat before, if you can map this in your eardrum, winds up and takes off through techno, then almost all of the previously mentioned genre / sub-genres.
Warp Gate Exploit
This reminded me off Deadmau5 until around 2:05. Then it's a domino-line of power chords and arpeggios (sort of twinkly-winkly sounding). It takes a person who has seen a small number of almost capable DJs (so can I ever be the right judge here?) to say that Rémi Gallego, in true DJ style, knows how to pace a track, an album, a musical entity. His experience is stark, with an album that will keep well for years to come. The final section of this track is atmospheric breathing space. Electronically or otherwise, some sort of feedback / harmonic / violining? sound effects are combined with brooding synth. This is soon joined by multiple finger snap samples and a beat which I'll describe as the one that Massive Attack use a hell of a lot. The end result? A perfectly balanced piece of musicianship.
I wouldn't exactly call myself a fan of Null. Rather I'd say that I was so impressed by everything leading up to it, that the track was coloured by the success of all that came before it. But it's still good, which should indicate to you that even my least favourite tracks on this album seemed to have something in them. One last thing about this one. It did seem to indicate clearly its intention of being the penultimate track on Polymorphic Code.
It's in the name with this one. I say that because most people would probably have to study for a special set of qualifications to understand the meaning of various titles on this album. This track really races to finish (a bit like me after having written almost a 1300 word review). It starts quite trancey, then moves on to an IDM flavour. The it's off to something like a band going nuts at the end of a gig / if you turned up both the speed and volume on an arcade game. Just listening to it again now reminds me how much I want this album to be the all consuming computer game soundtrack for generations to come.
Whatever anyone says about this album, there is one thing that is undeniable. It'll take you on a journey. It'll also make its intentions clear from the outset. In the category of potentially deniable, it may even nudge some concrete trancers over into the djent camp, or vice versa. This kind of music is perfect for potential or existing musical eclecticists. More importantly though, this album achieves that thing a perfect album should. It sounds like one piece of unbreakable work, where if a track is taken away, it's tragic, and yet each track is its own accomplished little album.