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(AGF Producktion)

Explode is the first full-length collaboration between AGF (aka Antye Greie) of Germany and Vladislav Delay of Finland. Both artists have released a good number of albums under their own names (and Greie has also worked with the group Laub, while Delay has also released under the name Luomo), but this release finds the two bringing their own individual talents to the table and yet taking things in a different direction than what you might expect. Gone are the more glitchy, ultra-processed vocals of some of Greie's previous solo works, and mostly gone is the ultra-complex rhythm programming that Delay had done so much under his own name.

Instead, Explode is content to work in very subtle and stripped-down ways. Delay peels back the layers on the beats and the backing music on the release is sparse and sometimes even sounds like it will fall away. Vocally, the album is much closer to Laub territory, with Greie half-speaking, half singing her lyrics that seem to flow almost like stream-of-consciousness observations on everyday activities and contemporary life. The opener "Introduction" layers very quiet synths over a thumping 4/4 beat and almost dub-influenced basslines while Greie adds her warm vocals.

"Explode Baby" is even more repetitive, pushing along with air handling system whooshes and very minimal rhythms while Greie spills vocals influenced by the viewing of a picture of a female suicide bomber. It sounds weighty, but moves in a similar way as the rest of the album sonically, and like many of the lyrics on the album, it could be viewed in several different ways. Because of the sparse production, Explode is not an album that might not make an immediate impression. There are some tracks, like the lumbering, heavy "Recorded" that pop out more upon first listen, but like the lyrics that seem to reflect on more minute observations, it's a release that unveils itself in smaller steps.

All in all, the album probably could have stood a little stronger with a bit more variety. When tracks like the micro-dub versus bouncing-ball beat and layered vocal choruses of "Distributor" hit, it makes you wish the duo would have kicked things up a notch in a few more places, but there's still much to enjoy on the release, right down to the great artwork (which follows up the great packaging of Westernization Completed). Like all good collaborations, it takes a bit of the work of each artist and results in something that doesn't sound like either.

Rating: 7