The second E.R.P. album in two years helps keeps the Detroit electro flame burning.
There is a possible downside to FR 014X, however, which has to do with the shadow it casts over Exomoon, the second E.R.P. album, released the following week. The question isn't necessarily about whether Hanson has exceeded his best work here. We don't, after all, expect artists to produce on a continuous upwards trajectory, particularly in the high-turnover world of dance music. It's more that Exomoon lacks some of the dynamism and variety of FR 014X and, indeed, other E.R.P. releases.
Exomoon is a steady album. The moods and sounds remain relatively consistent, as Hanson shows a mastery of overcast, sci-fi-informed electro. Side C of the vinyl features two four-on-the-floor tracks, and there are a couple of lower-tempo electro numbers elsewhere. But aside from one of the techno tracks, "Blockade," though, what we get is a thorough and deeply focussed exploration of a template. Big, squelchy Moog basslines with a hint of Detroit funk are a main feature. Another is pads, sombre but pretty lines that evoke the space scene on the record's cover. "Searchlight," "Lost Colony" and "Light Of S.A.M." all stand out, nailing the bass, beats and pads combination with distinction. It's actually not as though the many other examples of this style on the album are greatly inferior; it's more that the repetition of what's being communicated makes it difficult to not place the tracks in a ranked single-file line.
As you can maybe tell, there are perhaps two perspectives from which to view Exomoon. The first is that we get to hear more from a revered electro artist, operating deep in his groove, who has historically put out music at a very relaxed pace. But releasing two albums in consecutive years is unprecedented for Hanson, so while absorbing the fluttering synths of a track like "Moon Miner's Plight," you might conclude that he's among those doing the most to keep the original flame of Detroit electro burning. Then there's the perspective of the raw front-to-back listening experience. On Afterimage, there were pockets of timbre and frequency variation—"Wishing Still," "Remembrance," "Spurned"—that refreshed the ears as the record progressed. There's a sense of this here with "Blockade," a tough, wriggly techno cut that animates the higher frequencies, but overall it's not quite enough to bump the album from its lane. You might, in fact, say that both of these perspectives ring true, which is the view I'm inclined to subscribe to.