Lakker - Tundra

by David Bruggink Rating:9 Release Date:2015-05-11

There's so much that can go wrong in the making of an electronic album. Perhaps the biggest challenge in an age of out of the box VST plugins and Logic instruments is creating something that sounds truly fresh; then again, I'd like to think a good composer wouldn't necessarily be constrained by his or her palette of sounds. The sheer ease of laying down a track, facilitated by MIDI controllers, one-click looping and effect automation, means that electronic music is simpler to produce than ever before, and emerging artists face a real struggle in holding the listener's attention, particularly across the length of an entire album.

Lakker, an Irish duo composed of Dara Smith and Ian McDonnell, have actually been making music together for more than a decade, and released their debut, Ruido, in 2007. Tundra is their first album for the Belgian label R&S Records, and does away with the frenetic breakbeats of Ruido while retaining the duo's penchant for combining industrial noise with understated melody.

Though less abrasive on the ears than their debut, Tundra nevertheless features some of the most intense, and intensely focused, music you'll hear this year. 'Mountain Divide' is almost worth the price of admission alone, and undulates with layers of intertwining feedback while a relentless bass pounds in the background and radiant voices are suspended somewhere overhead. 

It's undoubtedly difficult to make sounds this big work together, but the album is brilliantly mixed, allowing delicate choral samples to stand out even in the midst of torrential noise. The use of vocals, which are often treated as isolated strokes of pristine melody, recalls Global Communication's mesmerizing '12:18', while the beats, compelling throughout, remind of Ben Frost's recent success with the crushingly heavy drums of central Africa on A U R O R A

One the album's biggest surprises is how well it manages to pull together its disparate influences. Attempting to combine the nakedly beautiful choral passages of Arvo Pärt with the punishing distortion of Merzbow has the potential for disaster, but to listen to Tundra is often to be reminded of the beauty dormant in life's apparent meaninglessness. Plaintive piano lines are juxtaposed with thundering cracks of electricity and church bells ('Pylon'); seemingly arbitrary, tuneless keyboard hits gradually coalesce into a gorgeous melody ('Herald').

I haven't heard an electronic album this creative or consistently engaging since Jon Hopkins' Immunity, and Tundra proves that in an age of throwaway music production, Lakker is fully deserving of your attention.

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