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  Subtractive Lad  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Brett Spaceman  

Evolution seems to be the order of the day here. Just when you think you have an artist pegged, a half-decent one will sidestep you. If that is the case, subLAD (let's call him subLAD) has performed a profoundly wrong-footing maneuver of Olympic proportions on yours truly. Listening to Apparatus, I feel as though I have been thrown by the world Judo champion. It is a sensation of utter helplessness and defeat and yet there is a certain dignity in losing to an opponent as worthy as this.

Now for the record. I have never claimed any expertise regarding electronic music, ambient, IDM, downtempo, or even post rock. The only "type" of music I always like is good music. When I first heard subLAD, I thought I had done reasonably well in identifying a similarity to Vangelis and particularly the soundtrack work for the film Blade Runner. Whether I was right or wrong about that is up to you, dear reader. What certainly proved to be foolish was to sit back on my hands and think, "job done". Apparatus is nothing like its predecessor. subLAD seems to be moving from cinematic back toward textural, while most of his contemporaries are moving in the opposite direction. Maybe Between Us contains traces of those "Tyrell Corporation fly-by's" that distinguished No Mans Land, but the rest is a smorgasbord of musical treats. We're in Boards of Canada territory, for example, on the luxurious Spoiled Honey. By contrast, Mayfly is rather Robin Guthrie/Yellow6 with its tranquil layering, and The Day Away is very Eno.

subtractiveLAD is clearly meticulous to the point of even designing his own instrumentation. We should all note this, myself not excluded, when drawing the inevitable comparisons we make. Wordless, Apparatus may be, but it has certainly made subtractiveLAD into a distinct voice in electronic music.

Each of the tracks I have mentioned is gorgeous and arguably these represent the meat in the Apparatus sandwich. Either side, we find thick chunks of dense, ominous drone. Speaking personally, this is effective rather than pleasurable. Only the hymnal Fumes can lift the mood as the album reaches its close. Yet I neglected to mention the centerpiece and what for many will surely become the standout track on Apparatus. Decay as a Lifestyle is the epic here and runs through the full repertoire. Blurred MBV-esque guitars frame a signature SubLAD melody. Is it good? Put it this way I think I just found my brand.

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   Album: No Mans Land


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