Let's get it out of the way: the long-awaited debut album from English duo Instra:mental is not a drum & bass album, nor a dubstep album. Redefining the borders of drum & bass and opening up the genre to the most outside attention it's had in a long while wasn't enough for Instra:mental. Neither was formulating sleazy, nocturnal takes on dubstep and deep house. Just as they usually do, Alexander Green and Damon Kirkham have now taken a sound (in this case, electro), pushed it far beyond its blueprints, and birthed a fitful dance floor monster that happily steamrolls everything in its wake.
While anyone following the duo and Green's solo project Boddika could have seen the not-so-abrupt turn coming, Resolution 653 comes not as some grand summary of the band's many achievements and experiments but rather a freeze-frame snapshot of exactly where the duo were musically at its recording. As such, it's uncommonly focused and admirably efficient, a breezy album of compact, dense records in rapidfire succession.
A consciously vintage and hardware-heavy look at dystopian futures, Resolution 653 plays off the detritus of a decaying Detroit, wandering through deserted city blocks and turning the twilight glow of autonomic into slate grey concrete and scorched black asphalt. It's impersonal and often utilitarian, which makes its brief moments of calm all the more affecting: there's a gorgeous synth line lurking behind every wall of inflexible stoned-carved percussion. The album is generally uniform, utilizing similar textures and sounds throughout but repositioning them in endless new configurations from loopy ("Plok") to irrepressibly bouncy ("8"). Think Neptune's Lair with all the water sucked out and hijacked by DJ Stingray, and you'll have an idea.
Most of the tracks on Resolution 653 consist of either rigidly funky thrashing—snares and hats flattened into a punishing collective thud—or volatile arpeggios both soothing and caustic sent snaking down endless paths. These are dance floor tracks to be sure, but Instra:mental's idea of a dance floor is brutalist and punishing as presented over the course of an album. Even the prettiest moments—the nauseously swirling "Waterfalls"—are driven by an unforgiving momentum.
Most striking about Resolution 653 is just how retro it seems on the surface. But dig a bit below and there's a world of warring dynamics and disruption, tracks fluidly morphing as if the duo had laid down the framework and let the hardware run wild. The ceaseless tension between dance floor efficacy and free-spirited experimentalism is too thick for the album to ever sound complacent. Instead it feels restless, hungry and fearless, the rare example of functionality working in an album's favour. The tracks here often sound like they're chomping at the bit to escape the fetters of their firmly cemented housing. That they never do is the exact reason why it's one of the best albums of the year so far.
Buy Instra:mental - Resolution 653 at
Tracklist: Instra:mental - Resolution 653 01. Sun Rec
05. Aggro Acid
07. Love Arp
09. Talkin' Mono
10. Rift Zone
12. Delta Zone (advance)
13. Memory implant