Gagarin - Biophila

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2011-06-20

By day, Graham 'Dids' Dowdall works as GEO label curator. By night, he takes on the altogether stranger persona of musical polymath Gagarin. His new album melds pretty much every dance and electronica trend currently worth bothering with into something wholly unique, challenging and seductive. The music on Biophila takes in elements of dubstep, 2-step, grime, AFX style IDM and ambient, but its roots remain elusive and the whole is tantalisingly nebulous. Wobbling bass-lines, ominous 2-step beats and synth washes make tracks such as 'Carbon Flux' and 'Kder' a constantly shifting, uneasy listening delight. However, these actually represent the more accessible end of Biophila's spectrum. Witness 'Dopplar': three minutes of little more than see-sawing, wheedling synth, or '3KA-3', which sounds like a wub-happy dubstep deconstruction of a funky house track.

Dids pedigree as an avant-garde music maker is faultless: he worked with John Cale and Nico, is currently an on/off member of perennial post-rock agitators Pere Ubu and also makes up half of Low Bias with Mark B from Rothko. On Biophila, he seems to be joining the likes of James Blake and Darkstar in taking dubstep as far as possible from its urban paranoiac roots. Purists might gripe but it's hard - almost impossible - to argue with music as stunningly gorgeous as 'Last Child in the Woods' or 'Galathus', both of which recall Brian Eno or Autechre at their most ambient. Put simply, this is beautiful music, no matter what electronic niche you swear allegiance to.

The best thing which Biophila proves is that, taken together with Dam Mantle's First Wave and a clutch of other releases, 2011 is turning out to be fantastic year for boundary-pushing, genre-defying electronica. What more could you ask for?

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