12″, The Centrifuge, 2009
On “Still Life”, Fractional presents the listener with four tracks of what could vaguely be described as downtempo IDM. Despite the fact that ‘downtempo IDM’ is probably my favorite genre, I can’t get over the feeling that this album is just so… mediocre. It opens with two tracks that contain some interesting beat-work, accented by some tribal-ish vocal samples and noises, which remind me of a better-produced “Mullah Said” by Muslimgauze. On the third track, “Lula”, Fractional uses some nice atmospheric pads and very subtle melodies, which lead me to say that this is the best and most developed piece on the record. Unfortunately after hearing the layers of atmosphere and melody here, it makes the first two tracks feel sparse, like they’re missing some key sound that, if added, would make them feel alive and complete. On the last track, “Aeu”, Fractional shows off his breakcore side, which is pretty well done, however the distorted 4/4 kick drum sounds very out of place.
Each track plods along somewhere between whimsy and melancholy without ever really breaching the boundaries of either. With the short track lengths (nothing makes it to four minutes), there is not much time for building or evolution. I’d say the biggest flaw here is that none of the tracks really go anywhere. It’s just a collection of sort-of-interesting-sounds that play for a while and then stop. There is a little bit of cool beat work, a little bit of abstract atmosphere, a little bit of melody, etc., but not enough of anything to warrant me to pull this off the shelf repeatedly. I guess it works as a teaser for the next album, but even so with only four short tracks it seems kind of pointless. If the songs were longer and had some sort of evolution to them, or at least if there were a lot more of them, it might be worth getting. If you really like Muslimgauze and don’t mind short and fairly directionless songs, then check this out.
— Dan Barrett