System - Plus - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

System - Plus

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2018-11-09
System - Plus
System - Plus

Life is stressful. You've got to worry about your health, your family, your job, and god-forbid you start thinking about politics. Luckily, there are bands like System who release sets like Plus to keep us all sane. Even better, the veteran Danish electronic trio, who have been creating music for decades, collaborated on Plus with German pianist Nils Frahm, whose delicate work adds an extra layer of lovely texture to the set. The combined project has the kind of sparsity to be expected on an ambient album, but with a solid, grounded sensation that keeps it more earthbound.

Lead-off track 'Open' shows this duality perfectly. The gentle piano places the song in the motes of dust in a sunbeam spilling through a window, rather than floating out in orbit somewhere, where the electronics alone would leave you. On the other hand, 'Drift' does get a bit more out there, using stereophonic channel switching of a breathy pad to introduce some dizziness. It does ease off after a minute or so, letting light percussion and chirpy effect creep in to place the listener in a psychedelic meadow. Later, a droning melody blunts the experience, providing some hint of what's to come in the next song, 'Gebiet'. Here, a dense, deep synth bass mutedly pounds in the background while more drones overlay each other in front. What begins as a walk through an underwater hall of mirrors gains manages to latch onto a brighter lead line halfway through, which has a delightful percolating quality and gives the track some direction. It turns one of the less interesting songs into a highlight.

'Piste' is a sweet, tinkling piece, like a clockwork ballerina that prances along in slow motion. 'Stille' dispenses with the percussion and rolls out massive, spacey pads behind a soothing but frayed melody. The slight crackling quality has shades of Boards of Canada in style. 'Add' is perhaps the most unique song on the set in terms of tone. Whereas nearly everything else is soothing, or at least calming, this is almost like a midnight walk across the moon, desolate and haunting, almost, but not quite, creepy.

After that, though, things return to the fragile delicacy of the earlier tunes. 'Frem' is similar to 'Open', but is more like watching rain through a windowpane, with slow, somber piano, and blend of misty and watery layers in the back. And final title track 'Plus' drops all the fancy pretense and focuses on being beautiful. A simple, charming piano melody leads the way, and numinous synths and pads create a gorgeous fog in all directions. Angelic vocal hits raise the stakes even more, taking the music out of time and space completely. The massive, ten-minute song is absolutely the masterwork of the set, a fantastically strong finish to a great album.

And that strong finish makes it hard to find much fault with anything that comes before it. It's so transcendent it wipes the slate clean. And to be clear, even without it, the rest of the album would be very good. This is one of the sweetest pieces of music released in 2018. So take a load off, forget your troubles, and bliss out.

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