CD, Peace Technologies/Lagunamuch, 2006
“Freeland” by FlexKiks is a joint project involving artists Alex Matrosov (Alexandroid), Liam-Arthur Berent (Abstract Avenue) and Vladimir Muhlberg (PlusMinus). Recorded in Munich and released on Peace Technologies – a sub-label of the Russian experimental/techno/ambient community Lagunamuch – “Freeland” presents a fascinating endeavor to discover synthesis in varied influences ranging from nostalgic industrial and breakbeat techno to relaxed downtempo and buoyant trip-hop. The only drawback to this otherwise inspiring stylistic meandering is the album’s overall perceived lack of fluid cohesion, resulting in a somewhat fractured singularity.
“Freeland” first introduces the listener into a realm of darkness, as nicely executed electro-industrial elements cast long, appealing shadows through the tracks “RedoBox” and “Find Here.” While the taut, slower rhythm of the former skitters and pulses across beautiful, apprehensive atmospherics, the more upbeat breaks of the latter solidly ground the oscillations of its backing pitches and sinister rumblings. “F1” (a personal favorite) continues this trend, injecting a mind-blowing flavor reminiscent of mid-90s techno-trance (think Germany’s Harthouse label) with a titillating rhythmic build and implacable, driving drum loops. The feeling of these initial techno-industrial tracks is also echoed in the somber pacing of “YOURlovelinch” later in the album.
However, the direction of “Freeland” changes dramatically mid-album with the almost ten-minute “Zwischenraum.” Falling somewhere between Amon Tobin and DJ Shadow, it demonstrates the uncanny ability of FlexKiks to jump effortlessly – and effectively – into the realm of chilled-out jazz and polyrhythmic downtempo beats. This organic, real-instruments vibe continues through the ultra-mellow “Portobello. Rd” and into the faster, eclectic and chaotic syncopations of “Digital Confusion.” With “Mi6Onok,” FlexKiks moves toward classic idm inclinations, an aspect highlighted by spacey and melodic acclimatization to abstract beats and sounds. These characteristics are reinforced and reinterpreted in tracks such as “Mi9u6” and the happily lulling “Freeday 10am.” Complete with twittering birds, the latter offers a peaceful end to the diverse, albeit fragmented, journey through “Freeland.”
— Dutton R. Hauhart