Review: Jeremiah R – Callisto (Tabernacle)

While it’s tempting to say that Jeremiah R’s second release for Tabernacle picks up where last year’s Underwater Title left off I’m not sure it would be entirely accurate. Underwater Title was a grand statement of what I’m sure someone, somewhere, is already describing as ‘deep electro’, and it certainly evoked a sense of billowing, open beauty that was worlds away from the harsher, skeletal grooves which pervades much of the genre these days. But while the record occasionally felt a little too comfortably wrapped up in its thick blanket of fat pads and swirling, Detroit synths, it retained a strong sense of self, particularly in the way it seemed to keep the more obvious influences at arm’s length.

Callisto returns with Jeremiah R’s sense of sonic adventure still in place, and at first listen it’s easier to spot the similarities than the differences. Jeremiah’s ear for radiant sound remains intact, as does his love of the easy drama and quiet romance that’s to be found in the ushering of mood through bubbling progressions of melody. Give it a few more goes, though, and Callisto begins to subtly alter. While it’s still replete with beauty it’s perhaps of a colder sort, harsher even. It goes beyond that, though; Callisto simply seems tougher.

This may be to do with the way the beats seem tighter. Underwater Title was a great release, but often the beats and the rhythms felt a little deliberately perfunctory as if they had been left a little underformed so they wouldn’t detract (or distract) from the complex sound worlds unfolding above them. Their role was to guide, to hint at shifts of being, and to provide a bedrock for everything else was going on. It mostly worked well too.

Here the beats are fatter, and they are far less shy about making their presence felt. Although they never overwhelm the proceedings, and rarely thunder their way into your consciousness, they’ve been given more leeway to marshal the tracks into a less sunny direction. On tracks like Callisto, where the percussion and a perfectly weighted kick funnel the breakbeats into a focused, lean groove they add an urgency to the music which deepens and accents the cold mood without allowing to become too icy.

In fact, it’s this quiet discipline of direction which nourishes most of Callisto, and its role in influencing the interplay between mood and groove has led to Callisto’s increased feeling of adventure. Where Jeremiah R retains his vision of a modern take on electro, the tastes and ideas are wider ranging, falling across a greater hinterland of concept without really losing sight of where he wants to go. Tunes like The Deep or Octavius are tougher jams than perhaps anything on the previous record. Octavius in particular is far more up front. It moves away from the electro framework, injecting a clattering drive that propels it forward, and coupling the sleepy Detroit touches to a sinewy bassline which adds a very old school, trancey atmosphere. Swimmers delivers the toughness and the drive in a slick, brash take on potent Drexciyan electro-techno, one of the few occasions the producer let his loves and influences take centre stage.

A little careful at times, especially in those moments when you want the tunes to cut loose, and on occasion guilty of a slightly too serious sense of its own grandeur, Callisto manages to take elements of electro, techno and IDM and mold them into something that introduces a new emotional depth to a genre which can sometimes seem too reliant on the abstract. For Jeremiah R, Tabernacle and electro it’s a strong start to the new year, and one that promises some interesting things to come.

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