Like a lot of people, I was pretty excited when Lone found a genuinely fascinating angle on raver nostalgia with 2010's indelible "Pineapple Crush." I was significantly less enthused when he appeared to be creating that track over and over again, even after signing to a resurgent R&S. But last year's one-sider "All Those Weird Things" had him exploring new textures and an emergent sense of elasticity, a rejuvenation that soaks into his debut R&S album (and fifth overall). If you, like me, were worried that Lone was set on a path of relentless retread, Galaxy Garden should set you right.
The album's appeal is all about texture: Galaxy Garden is glossy and reflective where his past work was all flat matte, despite its technicolour bursts. It's apparent right from the first moments of opener "New Colour," made of polished glass backlit in hues of cyan. It might be a cheesy analogy, but it's one that goes well with Cutler's increasing obsession with video game tropes—this is his move into three-dimensional territory after an era of 2D side scrollers. Everything comes off fuller and plusher. "Raindance" sounds like it's splashing in effervescent humidity, and the percussive template is less focused around breakbeat and more on... whatever the stuttering tip-toe of "The Animal Pattern" is supposed to be.
On that note, the album features two rather prominent collaborations with 2011's world-dominator Machinedrum. While both "Ctulhu" and "As a Child" revel in Travis Stewart's hyperactive case of restless leg syndrome, his biggest contribution isn't footwork-esque rhythms but his own layered vocal coos and the chiming Paisley Underground guitars that made Room(s) such a fantastic summer record. Mixing in all those elements might just make "As a Child" Cutler's best work since "Crush" or "Once in a While."
Elsewhere, Cutler is more adventurous than ever with his songwriting. "Lying in the Reeds" takes a dayglo—even for Lone; we're talking Petar Dundov territory here—arpeggio and pulls it apart and revs it back up as if he were playing it with a handcrank. It's like watching Cutler dismantle some dizzy trance anthem with his bare hands. Meanwhile, lead single "Crystal Caverns" sends hand percussion and liquid synths rushing through a gauntlet of taut turns and time signature changes, a breakneck track that sounds like it's run through about five different breakdowns.
Galaxy Garden ends in paradoxically grandiose and reserved fashion with a full vocal track from Brighton singer Anneka, dousing her voice in lovesick synth runs and gentle drums. It's a romantic and strangely human end to an album that essentially sounds like a rainforest ecosystem built from Christmas lights and 3D projectors. It's testament to Lone's continued growth as an artist that such a gaudy and intense aesthetic doesn't wear out its welcome over the album's 12-track run. Lone hasn't fully reinvented the narrative thread he started with "Pineapple Crush," but he's enriched it with a deeper exploration of his music's other referents, finding new dimensions to a sound that was beginning to feel awfully one-dimensional.
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Tracklist: Lone - Galaxy Garden 01. New Colour
02. Animal Pattern
03. Out Run's Splash Wave
04. As a Child
06. Lying in the Reeds
07. Dragon Blue Eyes
08. Crystal Caverns 1991
10. Dream Girl/Sky Surfer
11. Earth's Lungs