On the heels of last year’s ‘Hypermoment’ on Modeselektor’s Monkeytown label, this swift follow-up album ‘Particle Fields’ sees Robot Koch collaborating with Brisbane born and now Los Angeles-based composer / violinist Savannah Jo Lack to create a collection that blurs the line between modern classical and leftfield electronics. What’s particularly notable here is that Koch and Lack have constructed all of these tracks from scratch whilst working side by side, rather than simply layering string arrangements over a pre-existing electronic track, something that’s often a more common occurrence in electronic music.
It’s a creative strategy that certainly increases the level of depth and cohesion between the instrumental and synthetic elements on these eight impressive tracks, as well as presenting new creative challenges for both artists involved. Opening track ‘Eta Aquarid’ highlights the gorgeously intricate layering of textures at work here, as Lack’s vaguely Asian-tinged violin melody soars over a lush backdrop of flickering tones, shamisen-esque plucks and subtle crunching noises, Koch’s treatment of Lack’s strings with reverb almost representing another instrument in itself as reversed pads phase through the mix. While Koch’s synthetic productions are extremely refined though, he’s happy to allow Lack’s performances to take centre spotlight, instead focusing on building potent atmosphere with his subtle interjections.
If anything, ‘Skipping Stairs’ comes across as even more cinematic, as rich brooding strings waft against clattering woody percussion and glimmering keys, the instrumentation turning more dark and foreboding as jittering electronics ripple against the sawing strings, before ‘Heart As A River’ disrupts the flow slightly. While it’s certainly a gorgeously realised collision of plucked strings, soaring orchestration and delicate piano, the addition of Delhia’s lead vocals drags this straight out towards power ballad territory, and can’t help but feel a bit heavyhanded when compared with the more subtle brushtrokes being applied elsewhere here.
In contrast, ‘Sun Storm’ offers up the biggest nod towards abstract jazz here, as tribal drum rhythms prowl against an ominous backdrop of droning strings, the sustained notes wavering in and out of tune to spinechilling effect as swinging jazz hi-hats waft into focus, the clattering snares accelerating up into intricately limber breakdowns. An extremely impressive debut collaboration between Koch and Lack that sees them fusing intuition and precision beautifully.