Robert Henke - Signal To Noise
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Robert Henke
Signal To Noise

As the main man behind Monolake, Robert Henke has had a hand in creating some of the better minimal electronic music released in the past couple years. Cinemascope is a gem of crisp techno production, cracking and thumping in all the right places and evoking a calm sense of cool that very few have matched. In an interesting break from their sound, the group released an EP simply entitled The Gobi several years ago, and it was a 40-minute journey through ambient soundscapes meant to evoke the shifting sands of desert in the title.

Signal To Noise is much more similar to that release than anything else that Henke has done under his own name or the Monolake moniker. Created entirely by artificial means (short pulses of filtered noise were run through a network of granular delays in a Yamaha SY77 and tweaked via FM synthesis), this is a long album of alien tones used to somewhat reference an organic world. With cover art that again portrays a desert atmosphere (Joshua Tree National Monument in California), the release also references weather with the title of the last long track "Studies For Thunder," and while the piece at times feels very alien and cold, at others it evolves with an almost natural feel, calling to mind both cover art and track titles as reference frames (although had I not seen either, my experience with the music may have been different).

Three tracks on the release spread out well over 50 minutes, and while there is some slight variety in terms of how they progress, the elements used to create the tracks don't vary that much. Deep, long drones sweep low-ends while higher-pitched flickering of tones wash over the top in the two-part "Signal To Noise." Although sometimes a bit cold, there's never a real harshness to the tracks, but the album-closer of "Studies For Thunder" ups the intensity level a bit by cracking off sharper edges that are definitely linked to the title. While there's definitely a slightly unnatural feel to the closing track, the low rumbles of sound remind one of hearing a thunderstorm moving in for a distance as the sound of wind and even that of rain are seemingly replicated as well. By the end, it all fades into the distance again and safe in the confines of your own environment. While this release isn't as good as the best work from Henke, the result is something unique and removed enough from the actual real world sounds of storms to warrant some attention.

rating: 6.7510
Aaron Coleman 2004-11-25 00:00:00