Indeed, from the moment the album begins its gentle ascent with "Visioning Shared Tomorrows," it's clear that we're not in London anymore. The regal synth scales are weighed down with a weary kick drum, and the track fades into "Ant City," where staggering thumps are buffeted by warm gusts of machine love. The contrast between the heavy and hollow with the wandering intransigence of the synths is one of the album's most attractive dimensions, outside of the film-calibre melodies themselves. The downright cinematic turns on a track like "Truth Flood" are troubled by the stuttering snares that sketch out borders around it, themselves clashing with a lurching kick that gives the song its semblance of forward motion: it makes the tense moments tenser and the gut-wrenching more visceral.
The drums glitch and jump off on footwork tangents ("Onset (Escapism))" or mutant hip-hop scales ("Reality Drift") on Severant, the only constant being the nervous speed with which they twitch. There's nothing even close to a median BPM, but every track feels like it's feeding off some well of tireless uptempo energy. Percussion is rarely the main focus, but those tracks where the drums do dominate, like the restless suite "Salt Lake Cuts" or the fidgety funk of "Vectoral," are welcome anomalies, grasping points for those who might not otherwise cotton onto the album's preference for sweeping grandeur.
This might be sci-fi music—"Flight Path" especially sounds like something out of a fictionalized dystopian world—but no matter how wrapped up in those futurist tropes it gets, it's always bogged even further down by decidedly human regret and loneliness. This is melancholic music, and those rare peeks at humanity resonate through the cold metallic structures almost uncomfortably. It happens mid-way through the album with "Scissors," a canny rework of Carly Simon's "Why"—when the "not coming back" vocal filters through the chugging flanger it's enough to make you do a double take. It's an album made up of familiar elements, but what makes it so engrossing is how it twists them into something alien and unique: this is more than just "Vangelis goes footwork," as one RA commenter put it. It's just Jamie Teasdale, an already accomplished producer, freely chasing his inspiration and coming out the other end with near genius in the process.