Maneuver North America
Alexander Trust Maneuver North America (self-released) Confession: I don’t know my drum machines, or at least not very well. Some people have it down, like as a second language. Where this sound came from, or even how certain sounds evolved from the 303 to the 606 to the 808 (or what have you), why new ones were born. It’d be a nice skill to have listening to four tracks of Maneuver North America, though by the time the furiously sequenced finger-snaps of closer “We Will Make Eyes Forever (Sex at the Holocene)” come around—the record is worth it just for that bit of digital bone-breaking—you’ve gotta figure there’s a lot of sampling homebrew at work too. Said song definitely features a pretty sweet kick/snare combo of a certain vintage, but then, oh man, that is one alien-sounding, just-out-of-time wood block that lands sort of out of nowhere on top of the mix later, the mix itself an alien brew of downtempo glitch that takes the glitch aesthetic rather out of its sci-fi future-lean.
The record’s outwardly nostalgic for the heyday of Warp Records, the home for a great many landmarks in the broad downtempo genre, e.g., Boards of Canada, which arguably perfected the script. And it’s one thing to make a nostalgic exercise and quite another to actually advance an idea that hasn’t been en vogue for a while, for probably a collection of reasons. See also: postrock. But styles of music don’t die; they wait for someone to do something good with them. That doesn’t mean resurrection from the not-trendy void by any means, but it doesn’t not mean that. Alexander Trust, aka Miguel Sabogal of the also somewhat retro-leaning electronic/a duo Polygons, is doing something here worthy of downtempo/IDM’s ancestors and of your ears. Maybe part of it’s the distinction between mood music and “something else” that put something of a hurt on downtempo back in the day, and what elevates Sabogal’s new work. It doesn’t drag, doesn’t take your chill-state for granted, assuming rather that you want to listen to new and interesting music. Dig, for example, the sly metamorphosis of one particular melodic theme in “Radio Sweetheart (Follow Me)” from synth cloud bank to blue-sky piano over the course of a few minutes, leaving you moved from after-party to head perked up in a small recital hall of rapt listeners. Very nice. Strangely enough, Sabogal explains in an e-mail that this EP is a culled-down version of a longer LP finished this summer. Maneuver North America should leave a listener hungry for those scraps.