Another Electronic Musician


(n5MD; 2008)

By George Bass | 3 November 2008

First of all: he isn’t. The fact that California pad-prodder Jase Rex has been signed to n5MD gives him a head start over his chums to begin with; the label has been quite the hub of alchemy in its nine year reign, after all. Set up at the turn of the millennium by a bassist in love with flash memory, No Fives! Mini Disc has forever befuddled the venture capitalists with its steadfast stance on an ethic—namely, to gather only the utmost poetic technicians for “emotional experiments in music.” That this thinking has been dismissed as blinkered is a grim sign of the times, or more specifically, the current politics of the electronic genre, where the one-stop solution is presently thus: now that mixing packages are all but available as freeware, you only need to skim-read the guidelines, Open File from URL and hey, presto: plausible experiment. And anyway, mourning the demise of Sony’s portable RH1 recorder by factoring it into your label name will appeal only to the collectors of HD-DVD receipts, won’t it? Yes, we rather think it would. Thank you for your pitch. We’ll see you on Myspace.

Well, while it’s no secret that the interest hikes of n5MD’s limited editions has long helped keep the programmers in LaserMice, the label’s emphasis has always been on pure mood rather than indulging the libidos of boffins. Their back catalogue reads less like a circus of fad sequencing and more as a library of artificial textures, somewhere where like-minded artists can bone up in silence whenever they’ve hit the wall. Another Electronic Musician’s Five, by extension, deserves an aisle all to itself, perhaps one day destined to become the dog-eared dazzler that’s on loan more often than the Where’s Wally annual. On its first drop you’ll flinch and no doubt dismiss it as noise, but slide the bastard under an electron microscope and you’ll see the sheer flair Jase Rex has encrypted into his twisting rails of energy. Obviously aglow from the applause he received for his 2005 Use debut, he’s again refused to slip into that blank noodling that furs the filters of the electronic thinktank and instead perfected a project free of plagiarism. If I’m gushing here then it’s most likely because I’m a little in love—not one of the ten cuts on Five failed to hook me, and that’s a rarity for a genre that usually demands the patience of saints to resonate.

In short, this is precisely the sort of record Boards Of Canada should be making if they were ready to embrace the future instead of suckling on that reddening teat of nostalgia. For once it makes you feel glad to be travelling forwards in time, hungry for the era of fast-descending satellites that Rex predicts with vigor. The future ain’t so dark after all: “Amidst” is the outer dermis of a club smash, clever as Cut Copy solving trigonometry, and “Congee” takes some of Orbital’s finest pads and coaxes them into escalating symphony. These are flammable ideas, coursing down the gullet like cozy cold fusion while showcasing the power of machinery. In many places it could almost be dubstep with filaments: huge, sleek plasmaballs that cruise past you as ominously as an iceberg, their gleam and efficiency sinking in only once you’ve safely charted your exit. The rush dips and rises, such as the wintry summit of opus “Seed,” where white noise crests like the Draupner wave over a lone digital chip. In others it’s more evenly weighted: “Conjecture Correction”‘s Ultraworld-era Orb, or the torrential minimalism of the title track that burns like arctic crosswinds. The cult of hunched pioneers who sell out basement bars with their wars between projectors and Laserpods might finally have found a figurehead, and Christ does he know how to work the crowd. He’s even timed the release to coincide with the switching of political eras, the crafty fuck.

The way Rex can morph almost languidly between such crisp digital landscapes is graceful to the point where it could potentially defile my atheism, making me feel as if all the bad electronica I’d endured till now had been part of a higher agenda. But really, all you need to know about Five is that it’s a defining essay on late-night city gloom; ideal for bringing warmth to all those badly-heated studio flats. Rex commands the pumping of his supercooled ventricles with a cycle of patience and Halon, and like Warp Films’ Rubber Johnny reshot for Pixar syndication, you come out of Five feeling as you’ve just seen fireworks burst in slow motion. The world’s now a series of letters: an I, a D, and an M, and the middle one for Dance is still glowing.