Whilst wandering around Rough Trade East last summer, I stumbled upon a room near the back of the store housing what appeared to be a monumental setup of modular synths. Like an overexcited boy I immediately started to create sounds that I thought would see the music press hailing me as the new Keith Fullerton Whitman, whilst Holden and Actress entered a bidding war to sign me to their labels. In reality, it sounded more like a flu ridden LFO spluttering belches of painfully obscure melodies over a lame kick drum.
Retro, modular and classic synths have slowly been dusting themselves off and are now firmly back in the limelight as the de rigueur tools of any self respecting producer. “In Memory of Old Gear” finds Octavcat celebrating this theme and filtering it through their own selection of classic electronica and ‘IDM’ mnemonics. Just about every sound on this album will have old ravers leaping from their rocking chairs, hands aloft, eyes agog whilst stammering about early Autechre, Plaid and Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series.
To be fair, those old ravers might be right. It was good back then and what makes this release so excellent is the way Octavcat capture that dizzy period of creation and throw it through a wide eyed prism of nifty warm modern production. In terms of actually having memories of old gear they are well placed with a kit list that includes a Korg MS2000, ER1, DS8 and Mini 700, Yamaha CS-5, DX9, SY35, TX187 a Roland D50 and an Alesis Ion….phew!
This album is in parts, good old fashioned tuneful electronic music with many a humorous cheeky nod to bits of old kit – wavering theremin type sounds inhabit a few of the tracks for example. Occasionally. things head down more contemporary routes such as on “Panstarrs” where pointillist tom toms and Plaid style melodies fire off at oblique angles accompanied by the type of thrusting urgent sub Shackleton might deploy.
Then, just to remind us what all this is about the trio (for there are three synth fiddlers) strike up with “Nguyen” – placing us slap bang back in the early ’90s, when a nice melody was a nice melody and you can take your auto tuned EDM filth and shove it up your ass. Altogether this is an excellent release from Uncharted Audio. “In Memory of Old Gear” is released January 27th on vinyl and digital.