What kind of images do the words "Neo-Geocities" and "Angel Fire" conjure up for you? If you're old enough to remember dial-up and Live Journal, then you'll probably have enough memories of Web 1.0 to join the dots here. The fact the third track on The Host is called "Internet Archeology" should help to complete the picture. The Host is an album obsessed with the noise of the nascent internet years, the particular brand of electronic music taken to the realms of high art on countless releases from Warp and Planet Mu. It's fitting then that this album finds a home on the latter, the label responsible for releasing the output of the man behind the mysterious "The Host" moniker: Barry Lynn, more familiarly known as Boxcutter.
From the rapid-fire hi-hat patterns on the aforementioned "Angel Fire" to the more chilled synthesizer washes of the final few tracks, The Host never tries to hide its influences but rather inhabits them totally. "Internet Archeology" in particular revels in the warm tones of familiar-sounding '90s synthesizers flitting around behind a beat drenched in a cheap digital approximation of over-the-top '80s reverb.
The album can be roughly split up into three main areas; the opening tracks establish the IDM lineage, the middle section concentrates on groove and slightly more straightforward, danceable beats before the final few tracks begin to drift off into ambient space noodling. It makes for a wonderfully easy flowing album, one that never allows any element to overstay its welcome. The different areas of homage are embraced, explored and happily abandoned in search of something new every couple of songs. None of the tracks are worlds apart, but there's enough variety to keep the mind moving.
The key element that holds the album together is the sheer musicality present throughout. In less skilled hands, The Host would likely fall into the realm of pure nostalgia but here Lynn's impressive musical imagination is allowed to shine and explore, feeling renewed and inspired rather than imitative. It feels like an album made without the pressures of expectation or concern for the weight of past achievements. Melodies are clearer, sounds are left to wander and the scope—especially towards the end—feels completely unlimited. For all its referential qualities, this is a record that is confident in its own distinct character.
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Tracklist: The Host - The Host 01. Neo-Geocities
02. Angel Fire
03. Internet Archaeology
04. Tryptamine Sweep
05. Hidden Ontology
07. 3am Surfing
08. Second Life
09. Rainy Sequences/Phosphene Patterns
10. Summer Solstice At Cape Canaveral
12. Birthday Bluebells