Hybrid "I Choose Noise"Out Now on Distinctive Records
It´s that time again. Just as progressive house was coasting in relative comfort, reigning breakbeat kings Mike Truman and Chris Healings of Hybrid weigh in with their third full-length album ´I Choose Noise´. The pair from South Wales again push their distinctive cutting-edge soundscapes to new depths, exploring untapped avenues and revisiting some of the trademark sounds that have made them so revered in electronic music. Again packing an arsenal of collaborators (Judie Tzuke, Peter Hook of New Order, Kirsty Hawkshaw of Opus III, Perry Farrell of Jane´s Addiction and John Graham, aka Quivver), and backed by the Seattle Session Orchestra and score composer Harry Gregson-Williams, Truman and Healings spare no expense pushing the envelope of production quality.
The introduction of ´Secret Cycles´ makes the transition in sound immediately apparent: The lush strings and pads of Wide Angle, yet the haunting chemical sounds of handcrafted virtual instrumentation found rampantly across Morning Sci-Fi mesh together to launch the album.
The introduction segues smoothly into ´Dog Star,´ a track laced with a stark, snappy drum pattern, subdued effects and a harmonious blanket of strings that lead into an acidic, driving bassline that also plays host to the primary song melody. Perry Farrell makes his appearance here, lending his vocal cred through a series of rising chordal patterns. The breakdown features some obligatory acoustic guitar work that, while unoffensive, wasn´t strictly cohesive with the song structure. A fine tune that unmistakably leaves a bit to be desired.
The title track ´I Choose Noise´ features an aggressive downtempo breakbeat fused with a sonic collage of distorted bass, delayed and panned vocal snippets, and electro psuedo-melodies and bits of orchestration. Not strictly an independent track, but it serves as an effective ingredient to the album experience as a whole. The sounds blend nicely and the track lives up to it´s name.
Enter British singer/songwriter Judie Tzuke for 4/4 progressive house number ´Falling Down.´ The strings lead through with a flowing progression, briefly breaking down to staccato and setting the stage for Judie´s voice to command attention. A series of arpeggiated sounds and synth melodies fill out the track towards the end, but the true highlight is definitely within the delicate composition and orchestration.
´Last Man Standing´ greets with attention-catching claps, delayed and panned to great effect. Tribal drums and dark atmospheric pads build through an increasingly noticeable growling bass line. A series of false builds leave the impression of swimming upstream in a furious river, tons of work-up that never quite goes boom until the last minute. A moody piece of work that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Punctuating the soundscape are the seemingly 4/4 drums of ´Hooligan Spirit.´ A few layers of percussion and panned electro stabs stack up to reveal a surprise 6/8 time signature and a wickedly tribal sound worthy of raising Leftfield from the dead. Plodding, moody chords in minor key preserve the breakdown, and the orchestrations subtly generate a brilliantly effective undercurrent. One of the best moments on the disc.
´Choke´ fires in an overblown-drum downtempo alongside filtered hits, piano chords and choral atmospherics. John Graham introduces himself for a few brief verses, playing second banana to the thundering, rolling bass line and trademark LFO and panned effects. This reminds us how album´s flow has so far retained it´s haunting footsteps, much in the vein of it´s predecessor ´Morning Sci-Fi.´
Reversed sweeps lead into orchestral maestro ´Keep It In The Family.´ Returning immediately back to panned electro stabs, the violins take center stage with a frantic détaché, delightfully executed in the midst of a swelling wall of organic sound. Deceivingly this track remains in 4/4 time, using it´s hits and attacks on variable downbeats to create a swinging, pulsating feel. The track ends in an epic crescendo and concludes with air of mystery, leaving no doubt however that we´ve just experienced another one of the album´s finest moments.
Soft acoustic guitar begins the immediate rise of emotional ballad ´Until Tomorrow,´ showcasing at last the talent and versatility vocalist John Graham displayed when collaborating with Planet Funk. This song takes it´s sweet time using the first five minutes of build to pay off in the final three. Reversed acoustics and a wash of pads provide unique counterpoint to the lead guitar during the breakdown as Graham bridges into the chorus ("Your hopes and fears, seem so trivial from up here") The track builds in increasingly grander sweeps until a moment of full climax hits and the song´s continuous build leads into an incredibly well-executed transition from patterned drums to a full-on breakbeat. This is what ´Steal You Away´ should have been.
Layers of filtered guitars and lush pads introduce the album´s top track ´Dream Stalker.´ This is the true representative of Hybrid´s progression and maturation in sound. Familiar squelches and effects litter the soundscape while each set in the first movement is laden with flawless builds and transitions. Everything collapses midway through to reveal something new: Sampled dialogue. As the voice concludes, a hopeful return of guitar and atmospherics return to lift the album into a moment of euphoria. All the elements combine for a track finale, adding in a slice of filtered, panned vox to great effect. All this gradually breaks down into a slow segue into the final track.
´Just For Today´ appears with a lone arpeggiated synth holding the introduction amidst the company of the full orchestra. As things rise to a full bore, a classic breakbeat emerges -- the kind of beat we haven´t heard since Wide Angle. The sheer scale of epic quality is the kind of sound that´s defined Hybrid since their inception, and in it´s execution this track makes no false steps. It could very well be a younger sibling to Finished Symphony.
As an album, ´I Choose Noise´ will please old Hybrid fans and easily attract new ones. Like ´Morning Sci-Fi´, it finds home in cinematic soundscapes and melancholy hope. While somewhat tainted by moments of monotony, the positive moments are exceptionally enjoyable. The sound design is pristine, well-balanced and far crisper than ever heard before. Hybrid has assembled some of of the most forward-thinking composition in years, and the continually mind-boggling production methods are a delight to trained ears. While ´I Choose Noise´ fails to rise to the timelessness that is ´Wide Angle´, it succeeds in utterly destroying it´s immediate predecessor and represents a renewed standard in progressive electronic music.
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Title: I Choose Noise
Label: Distinctive Records
By: Devon Shaw | 25 August 2006