Unconventional minimal grooves from a techno intellectual.
Goldmann was always been one of techno's intellectuals, and he's lately pursued projects outside the dance music rat race. His last two albums were a documentary soundtrack (2016's A1) and a concept record about synth presets (2014's Industry), and neither was as exciting as it seemed on paper. Perhaps it takes dance music's competitive culture to bring out his better work. That's certainly the impression given by this mini-album, Goldmann's best release in years.
At first glance the tracks on An Ardent Heart are pretty straight stuff, minimal groove tools built from rumbling four-on-the-floor kicks and pistoning hi-hats. The interesting stuff happens inside this drum framing, where synthesised material—using "chance patterns," "hardware sequencers and freeform modulation sources"—lives out a subtle but engaging life cycle. Swarm-like sounds dart in and out of ear-range, circling one another, intertwining and clashing. Most tracks hit a satisfying climax, but rarely in the way you'd expect. As you can imagine, this is subtle music, and some of the most convincing tracks are the deepest. The title track opens the release with vague piano daubs and gentle chimes ringing out across a dark landscape. On "Blemish," chords bathe the mix in amber light before vanishing abruptly.
Goldmann doesn't do as well when he goes harder. There's an industrial flavour to "The Associative Engine"'s yammering arp and dread-filled pads, and it comes off stiff and unlovely next to its suppler companions. (Its return in the beatless coda "Engine Reprise" doesn't feel particularly necessary.) The sandpaper-rough "Vernier" is more effective, mainly because you're never quite sure where its hyperactive bell-tone arps are going. Unpredictability is these tracks' most precious commodity and Goldmann rations it carefully. He saves the lion's share for "Partitions." At its climax, the kick drops into a wrong-footed five-beat pulse, leaving you spinning in a polyrhythmic synth swirl. There's also a surprise breakdown before the four-minute mark, which sounds like a family of saxophones falling down a lift shaft. Pretty unusual, in other words.