André Bratten - Pax Americana - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

André Bratten - Pax Americana

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:6 Release Date:2019-06-28
André Bratten - Pax Americana
André Bratten - Pax Americana

When I first played André Bratten's new album, Pax Americana, I thought he might be a new pseudonym for Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin. Because this set was either created by the IDM master or by someone who had studied his works rigorously. After proving to myself that Bratten did indeed exist as a real, separate entity, I let myself relax and tried to enjoy the music, although I couldn't help but compare the artists over and over again while listening. This was impossible to avoid, considering that the Norweigan artist intentionally restricted himself to older equipment like the 808, tapes, and an analogue sequencer and mixer, the latter of which originally belonged to ABBA.

Indeed, many of the songs here sound like long-lost James pieces from his various incarnations, and the album starts out strong. Opener 'HS' rides a wave of bass across a glittering ocean of percussion filled with synth whitecaps, mimicking James' Analogue Bubblebath work under the AFX alias, and the title track would be at home on his debut Aphex Twin set Selected Ambient Works 85-92, with a gently shimmering beat spread across calm, soothing pads. Those two tracks are so good, in fact, that they at least match the quality of that era, and in fact, may surpass it.

But not everything on the album is quite that good. '426' is a little too droning, definitely still in line for the style of the time, but like a robot stuck walking into a wall, where you know some settings need to be tweaked for it to work correctly. Later percussive flourishes do give more depth, but it's not enough to save the track. 'Commonwealth' is a darker tune, effectively using creepy synths to establish itself as taking place in the seedy underbelly of a dystopian factory future, but it plods a little here and there.

'Ranx', with its deep, modulated synth lines overlaid by frantic breakbeats, also sounds like Aphex Twin, but from a different era, when James was exploring the jungle and higher BPMs. It works fine but doesn't break any major new ground. Closer 'Recreation 26B' slides back into a more recumbent, relaxed sound, leaning hard on slightly discordant pads more and more as it progresses after a beat-heavy beginning. It completes the unfulfilled promise the set has made, unfortunately.

So Pax Americana starts out brilliantly, but can't quite manage to maintain its highest level of genius throughout. Huge fans of 90s style IDM and smart techno will probably love the nostalgia this provides, but outside of the amazing first two tracks, which go above and beyond and are absolutely recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre, the rest of the set is relatively bland and unremarkable.

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