Album of the Week: André Bratten – Pax Americana

There’s a coy elusiveness to André Bratten and his music. As a listener you are never quite prepared for the next offering, and you hang on in some hesitant anticipation, waiting for the next musical strand that will take the Norwegian producer’s fancy and the execution to follow. From the neo-Disco of “Be a Man you Ant;” the booming Techno of “Math Ilium Ion;” the soul-searching electronica of “Gode;” to the ratcheting break-beat Electro of “Valve,” André Bratten’s music is an amorphous creature, one with evanescent engagements to a host of musical tropes from the vast lexicon of electronic music, and yet there’s still something distinctive to be found in his work.

Perhaps it’s even the fleeting nature of the music itself, but there’s a calculated effort behind the music; a mesmerising nature to the artist that keeps bringing you back to the music and waiting on bated breath just to hear what he’ll do next. As each LP or EP trains his efforts on a particular outcome in some temporally-affected concept, he maximises its effects, giving each new record yet another unique evolution in his sound as an artist. It’s never quite a reinvention of the artist behind the music, but rather a change in the point of view, yielding new and different results every time.

On “Pax Americana” his latest LP, the second in a short, but succinct discography, he changes direction yet again, but with three tracks from then LP released as 12″ singles during the course of the year, he had thoroughly prepared his audience for the record that would arrive on Smalltown Supersound this time around. There’s more of a cohesive thread between this record and the last, “Gode” than there was between “Gode” or “Math Ilium Ion”and “Be a Man you Ant” with tracks like “HS” and “Commonwealth” playing on the same lonely melancholic tones of its predecessor, but with influences and cues taken from Techno music’s distant past.

Tracks like “Ranx” and “426” bounce along on fast-paced broken beats and enthralling tonal layers that evoke some of early nineties ambient Techno encompassed by Bratten’s now familiar influences: predominantly the early Warp records camp of Aphex Twin, Authecre and Boards of Canada. It’s these influences that Bratten channels through his bold sonic structures which defines his sound as a producer, playing on the textural beauty of those early sounds with a tonal pallete that carves out deep, emotive trenches of sound through their compositions, while broken beats and wistful resonances flutter through the arrangements.

With a wall of sound going through Andre Bratten’s rich analogue sonic practises there’s always been a broodiness accompanying his varied musical adventures. It’s not necessarily something you’d find in a record of this nature, a record that usually thrives in the harshness of excessive polyrhythms and arbitrary melodic pieces intersecting the songs like a single tapestry of noise, but Bratten succeeds in his pursuit and especially on the title track. The warmth of that undulating sub-bass, the pads floating around an some distant memory of a dreamscape, and the stark percussion repurposed as icy melodic atmospheres, all contribute to a track that invites the listener into the cosy depths of a hypnotic sonic maelstrom.

It bears some striking resemblance to Aphex Twin’s classic track “Xtal”  – in spirit rather than sound – defining one part of an LP that seems to be caught between different worlds. In an interview with André Bratten some time ago, he talked at length about the manipulative manner in which he assembles his records. I felt “Pax Americana” finds our artist in that same kind of transitional phase we saw on “Math Ilium Ion,” using the record as a bridge to that next evolution in his work and coercing his audience into that sound through a few tracks, while retaining that tether to his previous records. The LP’s brief existence which is only  6 tracks long would suggest the same and there’s almost no doubt that this will lead into another record made up of more tracks like “Pax Americana” and “Rank.”

It puts this record at another crucial pivot point in  Bratten’s elusive career, and yet again we are left in hesitant anticipation where André Bratten’s records will take us next on his ever deviating journey through electronic music and the extensive breadth of his sound.