After hearing the name Monolake for some time and seeing Cinemascope on the year end list of many readers of this site, I finally decided to hunt the disc down and see what all the fuss was about. After listening to it several times, I was talking to a couple of friends of mine and recommending it to them as well, but I found it hard to put into words just what it sounded like. I stumbled and stuttered around until I finally said something cheesy like, "it sounds like driving down a dark interstate in the middle of the night." I didn't mean that it sounded like the car or the sound of other traffic, but that it "captured the feeling" of that motion and light. Still a somewhat goofy explanation I realize, but allow me to try to explain further.
Monolake has been around for some time now, creating somewhat minimal electronic music and releasing albums on the Basic Channel label among others. Although quite prolific, he's also gained a fairly high critical acclaim for being amazingly consistent as well, and although this is the first release that I've had the pleasure to hear, Cinemascope is no different. If I had to compare the sound to different artists, I would say that there are bits of other Basic Channel groups, along with some of the cool precision of Richie Hawtin and perhaps a touch of the warm programming of Pole.
I'm still nowhere near describing the album properly, and maybe that's OK. After opening up with about a 20 second field recording of some distant traffic (which seems to match the cover art of twisting interstate systems in Shanghai), the track "Bicom" rolls into action with a thick low end and some cold tone sweeps. The track rumbles along with a smooth mid-tempo beat while at some points deconstructed computer voices gurgle out bits of nonsense. In "Cubicle," some of the same elements (the thick, rich beat) are there, while some almost liquid tones and clicks sprinkle down throughout.
"Ping" continues the amazing album with some several more layers of haunting tones while a crisp, stuttering beat is offset with a subtle twinkling melody. "Remoteable" takes on an almost dancey beat, while "Cut" is the most deconstructionist sounding track on the disc, with a rhythm that clangs around between the speakers. "Indigo" closes out the disc with one of the most rich ambient tracks that I've heard this entire year, swallowing you up with thick layers of lowend and samples of dripping water.
Needless to say, this is one album that needs to be listened to at a higher volume. Although it can be enjoyed quieter as well, the layered subtleties of the disc don't make themselves known until things are at an enveloping level. Although my description of the music that I told my friends may have been somewhat influenced by the cool blue hues of the cover art, I still hold my position in that Cinemascope has an almost architectural sound. It's cool and very nearly too precise, but it definitely has a warm human touch at the same time that makes it so engrossing. Time to listen to my readers more often, as they're smarter than me anyway.