The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Pedro Vian
Beautiful Things You Left Us For Memories Ben Cardew , November 16th, 2016 12:17

Electronic music, more than any other genre, is hugely temporal. The fact that production techniques evolve at breakneck speeds and BPMs creep steadily higher means that it is generally easy to date electronic productions, while songs that sound teeth-achingly futuristic today will be ripe for nostalgic revival within a few years.

All of which makes Beautiful Things You Left Us For Memories, the debut album from Barcelona producer and Modern Obscure Music boss Pedro Vian, a rare beast indeed. It is a curiously atemporal example of a dance music album, neither retrofitted nor envelope pushing, the kind of record that could have been made in 2016, 2006 or 1996 and which will probably still sound box fresh while dug out from our record boxes by visiting aliens in post-apocalypse 2026.

It is, in many ways, a very simple album, the sound of emotionally charged house music slowed down, spaced out and buffed to an eery metallic gleam. It is a record of elegant lines, wistful sighs and immaculately unfussy production, the soundtrack to walking around the city at night, rather than jacking your body. Rarely does Beautiful Things… work up a sweat. But when it does - as on ‘Vinçon' on ‘Invisible Objects’ - it is a very elegant sweat. A glow, maybe.

Vian spent two years making this album and his attention to detail shows throughout. There aren’t many layers here - most songs consist of little more than synths, effects and simple percussion - but every sound is worked to perfection. Beautiful Things… sounds uniformly fantastic, then, and to this Vian adds a knack for heartfelt melody that is reminiscent of Carl Craig’s 1995 classic Landcruising, Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series or even vintage Mr. Fingers.

Take ‘Invisible Objects’: the song layers melancholy synth chords in plaintive layers, like a robot staring forlornly out the window, under which simple drum patterns fire and sputter, while a 303 adds percussive whispers. It’s one of the liveliest, Landcruising-est songs on Beautiful Things… but its quietly epic sound is built on a small handful of finely-crafted elements and an acute ear for melody.

The mood of ‘Invisible Objects’ - one of rueful longing - is one Vian returns to throughout the album. Melancholy seems to permeate its very core, where sorrowful chords meet the slow tread of the drum machine, and none more so than on ‘801 Nite’, which features vocals from Mourn’s Carla Pérez Vas. It seems an unlikely combination, given Mourn’s predilection for PJ Harvey and punk thrash, but it works brilliantly, as Vas’ yearning vocal is cushioned by synth lines that could have come straight from a B12 record. The result is a pop song, if pop was too overcome with sadness to get out of bed, or The xx soaked in whisky and tears.

‘Indian Strings’ - possibly the best song on the album - suggests a voyage even further into the past. Its glacial, 100BPM-ish tempo and metrononic bass drum thump evoke the classic, primitive charm of the earliest house records, while the synth line is so reminiscent of early New Order that you half expect Bernard Sumner to pop up with his melodica. And yet Vian’s immaculate production skills - the song positively gleams - means ‘Indian Strings’ never tips into vacant revivalism.

This, then, is the charm of Beautiful Things… It feels like a record out of time and for the ages, a record to clear 2016 from your mind and soul. It is a record where emotion and feel win out over modish production and the imperative to dance, a record you can wallow in, like sadness itself, and lose yourself within its folds. It is house for the heartbroken, techno for the tender and while it may not be the record we deserve after the car crash populism of 2016, it’s very much the record we need.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.