Features | Awards

The Medical-Grade Titanium Award for Record Most Likely to Induce a Head-On Collision

By P.M. Goerner | 16 December 2011

(R&S; 2011)

Standing in stark contrast to the shared preferences of both CMG and myself for the deepest and darkest electronic offerings of 2011, Nottingham’s Lone released his fifth EP on R&S early this year, and if anything from the opposite side of the emotional spectrum deserves to be recognized here at the end for its absolutely irresistible inertia, it’s that record—Echolocations. Matt Cutler has been crafting glowing, effervescent beats for over half a decade now, and after making early waves in UK IDM circles with an instantly signature crystalline, sunny sound, his work this year finds him taking more intricate care to inject his characteristic pinball machine verbosity with the richest melodies and most sublimely complex beats of his career. He paints the kind of remarkably evocative digital fantasy that not only captures images and emotions, but somehow also manages to offer a transcendent tactile immersion in the overwhelming sensations made possible through those images as well, like the blinding sparkle of sunlight on the ocean, or the rabid intensity of a furious bike ride. Echolocations captures the best of contagiously upbeat music.

That said, Echolocations was the headphone record of the year for me. It made me an absolute menace on my bike. It seemed both to possess me with a momentum I couldn’t have conjured on my own, and to stand as an impossible demonstration of supernatural velocity that goaded me into pushing the limits of my reckless pedaling to ill-advised extremes at just about every turn. The colonial-era Savannah streets are characteristically unfriendly to all traffic as it is, a place where junk cars and overgrown topiaries obscure just about every sensible angle of advisable caution, but with this kind of soundtrack I’m pushed through the limits of recognizable civility into a world completely subject to the manic rainbow tune I’ve got pulsing out of every alleyway in my periphery. It’s a sensation that honestly has to be felt to be understood, and it speaks to the heart of a driving rhythm’s possessive voodoo appeal.

Throughout the EP, restless, fractal rhythms twist at light speed like a helical Space Mountain, are tempered to gelatinous palatability by soft-serve Boards-of-Canada-at-double-speed melodies, and consistently channel the welcome paradox into beautiful, prismatic textures. Some of the synth lines seriously sound like modulated daytime TV or network news theme songs (try a bit of the straight-up Windows 98 fanfare that opens “Dolphin”), but in the context of Cutler’s masterful post-house rhythms, which, when broken down, ring lovingly of Carl Craig and the best of ass-shaking Detroit, they take on an irresistible pastel funkiness. It’s pedigreed dance music that feels more at home in a dune buggy than in a nightclub, more apt to refresh the mundane with a sparkling sea-spray than to immerse itself in a dark puddle of predictable after-hours necromancy.

Cutler’s friend Bibio describes him as a guaranteed synaesthesia-inducing experience and has said that a Lone song is instantly recognizable in its individuality. That praise from other lauded contemporaries is no fluke compliment to Lone’s inviting enthusiasm. Echolocations may have been the bane of my city streets this year, but if you take the time to get to know it, you’ll find it’s one of most honestly fun and most sincerely positive releases from any comparable producer in 2011. A few follow-up tracks and a very experimental 12” since the EP’s release have ensured that Lone is hard at work, and if Echolocations can be any assurance (it can), 2012 is going to be a bright year for this bold Brit. I’m buying a new helmet.