Midnight Colour

(Planet Mu; 2010)

By George Bass | 5 June 2010

Planet Mu’s widening of its palette of songwriters hasn’t happened at the expense of their bravado, and certainly the label still knows how to slam it when it comes to using bass to cause subsidence. In fact, if you ever feel like taking to the night air and want to hear engines zooming through yellow-lit tunnels, Mu’s the place to go. Trust me. However, if you then want the same kind of engine rush but something a little less boisterous and controllable (basically, if you want a 50cc version of Street Hawk) then hang tight for iTAL tEK. Instead of sandblasting you in the dubstep genre, tEK drills you at a more instructive pace, like a Bob Ross video with a sub-woofer. The man behind the moniker, Alan Myson, has come a long way in Brighton since four years ago. In 2006 he was just another bedroom jester who turned in a Terminator 2 mash-up on Net Lab. With Midnight Colour, he’s John Connor in reverse: going from a coked-up, screaming Christian Bale vehicle to Edward Furlong’s calm, anarchic PIN scheme. And 50cc motorbike. With loud engine.

Though a long way from dubstep’s attempt at the Iron Maiden power howl, Myson’s sophomore record is a polished affair—“polished” in that his production’s come on ten-fold since his time in the Scwarzenegger Series, and “affair” in that there’s still the healthy helping of filth you’d expect from cornering an in-law in the laundry room during a family BBQ. MC‘s fifty-minute setlist mixes everything from light funk to chiptune shimmers, Yamaha CS-70Ms and dubstep played on accordions (there’s plenty of that). On top of that, amazingly, it’s not a show-off record: when Myson breaks out the shoegaze vocals on “Talis” it’s not because he’s reached “S” on his checklist, it’s because he knows that’s the ingredient he needs to light up the chunky geysers on the track. Largely, though, he works without singers, gluing his machine ideas together with all kinds of fascinating sediment. Stacks of garish keys don’t need words to sell the “lost in Paris” vibe on “Strangelove V.I.P.,” and “Moon Bow”‘s melodic electro summons Global Communication at their finest, very nearly making them finer still with extra testosterone and Mario Bros. fireballs. Even the T2 bass line gets a look-in on “Babel,” proving these machines once and for all are capable of more than translating text strings into French.

It’s Myson’s trek across the electronica wilderness that holds the most attention on Midnight, and while his knack for variety is what ultimately sustains it, the changes aren’t as instantaneous as fans of the rough stuff might demand. “Subgiant”‘s alloy of sharpened cutlery effects, heartburn bass, and things-smashing-backwards noises make for a nice blend of logotones and breakdancing, but for one of the baddest cuts on the album, it crawls too much to be thought a proper bomb. Some things, though, seem more ominous when crawling, (like the army) and while “Black and White” is a little to heatstroked to count as any kind of pay-off, it still sits nicely among all the other pearls. “Moment in Blue”‘s elfin prancing spits in the big bass’s eye, and the underwater noir of “Satellite” harks back to that Terminator 2 set one last time: matured, less spastic, and every bit proof of what a whizzkid can do with a studio and four years’ thinking time.

Despite its procession of flourishes, Midnight Colour is not quite complete enough to be thought of as A Record For Everyone, no matter how well it honours its far-flung ingredients. Sticking to one particular camp is how to enter true timelessness, and while Myson’s style is predominantly electro, he’s too much a weaver to be pigeonholed. No one else I’ve heard can let leaky tap effects ripple so gracefully through their sequencers, and when the urge to bear teeth strikes iTAL tEK, he meets it, hacking up odd Chase & Status melodies or putting tacks in the wiper blades of hatchbacks. He’s a man who likes to 180, though that could be deduced from the title of his album, another contradiction of sorts. And what I said about him working without singers? He bins all that for the swansong: a lovely three-chord ascender made even lovelier by Anneka’s ethereal voice, the “I shoot them down” mantra beautiful as buried treasure. During the IDM gold rush of ten years ago, the Brits seldom punched under their weight and iTAL tEK’s no exception, delivering a sophomore haymaker with all the foot-pounds electro cries out for. The difference is, though, he fights dirty: he’s in rainbow gloves, one’s with a hidden horseshoe and he’s probably coming in southpaw. Shut your right eye before listening.