More outgoing and less blunted than 2007's Midnight Black Indulgence on ~scape, Meteorology marks another satisfying album from the critically-beleaguered Cadenza Records after Ernesto Ferreyra's fantastic long-player. As per the label's usual M.O., it's vaguely tropical and twitchy tech house. The beats are padded and reinforced with an entire ecosystem of intriguing samples.
The free-spirited and playful sense of melody can easily work against the album, however. "Cryin'" features cringeworthy Orientalist flourishes (including a bizarre mumbled vocal), while the Slavic pastiche "Ostalgia" has ear-tickling chimes that pull the track into unpleasant ringtone-gimmickry territory. The album also features a lot of Gardner's own vocals, and his dry and detached baritone is bound to be divisive. When it's not serving to push the groove along, his limited range is painfully apparent. The pointless vocal on "Back into the Deep" has the unfortunate effect of distracting from its hypnotic, shapeshifting groove and 3D-popup plucked strings; conversely, the gravelly vocals on "Red Tide" are more successful when they're swept up in rambunctious drum fills and undulating waves.
Gardner is at his best when he channels his exuberance and extroverted nature into more subtle, focused tunes: "Lunar Phaser" packs a world's worth of time-stretched and contorted sounds into three minutes, and the jazzy undertones of "Cinemascopique" are refreshing on an album full of hit-you-over-the-head overtones. The album is marked with sections of subtlety, uncertainty and doubt, where the cheery facade crumbles; revealing moments like those turn Meteorology from a bouncy tech house album to something more honest and interesting.
Like any document of emotional crisis, Meteorology can be as uplifting as it can be depressing, unstable, unpredictable, and sometimes even unsettling. It's an album-length experience that goes far beyond the usual set of grinding tools, even if it sometimes goes too far in its mission to be different.