An impressive debut LP of unpredictable club tracks from the Australian producer.
The album's best tracks fall roughly in the centre of its intensity spectrum. "IP68" and "Mirrored Gate" are low-slung club tunes with shades of UK dance music. No use pinpointing more precise genre coordinates, though: the drums slur and stutter out of their patterns and the melodies feint and weave. Air Max '97's music makes a virtue of this evasive quality. He can't let a chord progression run without clotting it up with digital processing; his lead lines, played on uncanny-valley voices or twisted instrument plug-ins, routinely squelch and warp out of shape. You're often left wondering if you really heard those terrestrial sounds—voices, water droplets, the creak and groan of shifting structures—echo through the mix, or if it was just wishful thinking.
A handful of more abstract tracks indulge this urge to dissolve. "Nacre," with its tentative e-piano, is a thoughtful moment at the album's centre. On "Quereinsteiger," footsteps lead us into a throbbing, dreamlike synthscape. This stuff is appealing, but alone it would make for a difficult album. Air Max '97 offsets it with bolder gestures elsewhere. The opener, "Profanations," with its synthetic vocals and lunging panicked beat, is particularly striking. Then there's the restless piano-roll flickers of "Veneer," and the climactic "Kermes." On "Karyon," klaxon wails fall on a beat that jangles with unease. It's an ear-catching mix of heaviness and jittery angst—one that's lost in the track's crowded latter half. This is one of the few moments where the producer's ambitions seem limited by his technical chops. Prior Air Max '97 EPs often suffered from this problem, but Nacre mostly nails it.