Digital Release, Glory Box Records, 2007
“The Dreambox” is apparently the debut full-length from Italian artist Kernel Drop, presenting listeners with seven cuts (a few rather extensive, at more than ten minutes’ duration each) of IDM and experimental electronics. Chock-full of everything from jittery loops and intermittent beats to tribal drums and trance elements, the release focuses on a complex, interwoven layering of sounds. It emphasizes the dramatic effect gained through constantly dropping beats and layers in and out of the mix, forcing continuous compositional shifts. Kernel Drop uses plenty of hypnotic sounds, but sidesteps leaving listeners drooling and dazed simply by taking unexpected turns in the music.
It’s easy to pigeonhole “The Dreambox” as druggy IDM, intent on burrowing into the nethermost corners of your head while stimulating imaginative, extra-corporeal visions. That’s all well and good, however the music’s meticulous – dare I say obsessive – division of movements and layers leads to an icy, unfulfilling over-compartmentalization. It’s easy to appreciate tracks like “Circus Alien”, in which spacious and minimal clicks and twangs build piecemeal into a more complicated structure, or the anxious loops and discontinuous rhythms found in “The Speed of Sound”, for their unique complexity, but more often than not the music goes nowhere, wandering this way and that through its own self-indulgent field of tricks.
That’s not to say the album misses entirely; there is good production and, as mentioned before, it often plays against expectations. It may just not be to my taste. Despite that, the track “Kernel-Drops” is an admirable piece of work – its tribal drums and relaxed breakbeats, reverberating bass and dated synths cumulate in a certain old school reminiscence that’s very appealing. But it’s about the only thing here that seems complete, that fills out into more than just the two dimensions of up and down.
In the case of “Microarchitecture”, the escalating layers and trance insistence stop suddenly short, leaving behind an unfinished feeling. The same goes for “Macroarchitecture”, with its percussive droplets, as the music spends some minutes building before locking into its groove and then reaching an abrupt end. “Skyline”, full of melodic spacey floating stuff, just as the titles suggests, has great potential, but it proceeds to bog down in rather boring loops and twitches, leaving an empty impression. So I guess that’s really the bottom line: “The Dreambox” just lacks that emotive something, lost somewhere in one too many progressions on a linear trajectory.
— Dutton Hauhart