During the noughties, Antwerp-based electronic producer Arne Van Petegem’s solo project Styrofoam saw him releasing numerous albums of blissful downtempo IDM under the alias, as well as collaborating with artists ranging from the likes of The Notwist, Lali Puna, and The Postal Service, right through to Death Cab For Cutie and Jimmy Eat World. In more recent years though he’s been comparatively quiet, having put Styrofoam on hiatus since 2012, a silence only finally broken by 2016’s ‘Three Instrumental Tracks To Celebrate The End Of Summer’ EP.
If that aforementioned EP provided something of a fleeting tease, three years on, ‘We Can Never Go Home’ finally offers up Styrofoam’s long-awaited eighth album, as well as his first release on Greek label Sound In Silence. As the delicately pretty electronics in evidence on the eight tracks collected here clearly display, little has changed aesthetically for Styrofoam during the hiatus, with the biggest difference being that he’s completely pared away the vocal performances that characterised his previous work, making this his first completely instrumental album.
‘Fully Present’ opens this collection gently as twinkling circuit bent electronics give way to slow snapping beats, the shimmering synth arpeggios that coil around them gradually being overtaken by delicate piezo electronic tones and deep rolling bass. More than anything else, there’s a sense of enveloping warmth and wellbeing, even as more distorted electronic textures growl at the edges against glitchy stutters and bursts of digital processing.
‘The Crook Of Your Elbow’ reaches even further out into blissful electronic dream-pop atmospheres as vast synth chords and shimmering sequences hang like neon signs in the void, only for the hiphop-inflected beats that lock in during the track’s second to suddenly propel things off into the distance against squalling layers of what sounds like digitally processed guitar feedback.
Elsewhere, ‘Did Your Mouth Buy You This Scar’ gets more gleaming and crystalline as shimmering arpeggios and glacial percussion wind up into a dizzying spiral of textures, the brooding bass synth chords that wander beneath suggesting one of Tangerine Dream’s late eighties film scores as well as the more contemporary likes of SURVIVE, as jagged electronic feedback begins to bleed into the foreground.
It’s closing track ‘Blind Spot Safety Procedure’ though that really reveals this album’s downtempo pop heart, as layers of spiralling synth sequences roll like glimmering trails against a laidback programmed drum groove, the entire track building into a uplifting climax, before suddenly echoing away into an extended post-rock outro section of howling drones and echoing feedback that’s easily the most psychedelic moment here. A more than welcome return from Styrofoam – move fast though, as the physical edition is limited to 300 CDR copies.