A year after Alex Smoke’s impressive debut, ‘Incommunicado’, comes his second full-length outing on Soma. On ‘Paradolia’ we find the considerable talents of Smoke maturing into a release that will surely be placed amongst the best of 2006.
The album commences with ‘Paradolia Intro’, the synths of Smoke shining through the cloud and rain and making way for the sublime textures of ‘Persona’. This is an incredibly well-balanced track, where the low end grounds the chimes that drive this minimal house grinder. ‘A Moment to Myself’ is most appropriately titled as the post-acidic bleeps and background voice make for an inward looking piece of music. A building feeling of melancholy grows on ‘Never Want to See You Again’, Smoke’s dry vocals doing a profound job of creating a sense of longing and loss. To prevent proceedings becoming too somber, the stabs and rolls of ‘Meany’ reinvigorate the listener and provide entertainment for the dancefloor. Then comes the high point of ‘Paradolia’, ‘Make My Day’. It is hard to overemphasize what a perfectly crafted cut this is. The distorted voice of Smoke gives this track a feeling of fragile beauty – a love song on smack perfect for the after-afterhours. ‘Prima Materia’, which follows, is well produced but its orchestral strings and horns are ever so slightly out of place between ‘Make My Day’ and the more upbeat minimal house of ‘Snider’. ‘We Like It Insipid’ is a mellow affair, with its structures and feel being reminiscent of some of the older releases on Warp records. On ‘Anima’, we find Smoke’s vocals for the third and final time. Once again, they are used most effectively, but here create a more upbeat vibe as they merge with his distinctive chimes and distorted melodies. The next two tracks compliment each other, as deep synths, distortions and clicks leave you torn between the armchair and the dancefloor. ‘Left Drift’ closes the album in style – a balanced, downtempo number which encapsulates the phenomenal production and beauty that pervades the whole album.
‘Paradolia’ is a stunning success for Alex Smoke. Considering how difficult it is for techno producers to make complete albums, his achievement is all the more notable. There really are no weak tracks here and Smoke manages to craft a sense of coherence to the whole release. The production is top-notch throughout. He incorporates but transcends a wide range of influences and, in the process, forges a distinctive sound. Smoke’s work normally gets pigeonholed into the increasingly broad and meaningless category of ‘minimal’, but this album is anything but that. His productions are lush affairs, brimming with layers and texture. With this release, Smoke has cemented his place at the forefront of techno today. ‘Paradolia’ is one of the best releases you will hear this year. Essential.
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