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Album Of The Week

All You Need Is Evlo: Bogdan Raczynski’s Addle
Jaša Bužinel , March 17th, 2022 07:34

Braindance survivor Bogdan Raczynski returns with an album whose complex syncopations bely a heart of pure gold, finds Jaša Bužinel

It is obviously a great cause for celebration that Bogdan Raczynski is now back with his first original full length in fifteen years, both for longtime supporters and newcomers interested in these sonic spheres – especially those who really appreciate YouTube recommendations of classics like Selected Ambient Works 85–92 and Tomorrow’s Harvest, but never seem to get past them. Addle does not herald a complete U-turn for Raczynski, though he clearly pulled the handbrake on his propulsive breakbeats, turning instead towards spacious, seemingly free-floating dreamscapes. 

On first listen you immediately think the days of trippy and menacing drill’n’bass ballistics are over, and that he has become way more zen. Still, even though the album definitely marks a new chapter in his catalogue, after repeated rewinds you start to imagine that he has actually time-stretched his distinct sonic sensibilities, which often used to be hyper-arranged in compact microgrooves and off-kilter synth modulations, beyond the event horizon where separate sonic constituents have all the time and space to unfold. The elements that make up his productions come into the sound image gradually and delicately, conjuring a profoundly blissful atmosphere. Subtle and irregular percussive movements intertwine with his ethereal wailings, giving the impression of synthesised humpback whale songs.

Raczynski is not completely new to this territory, of course. The silky soothing melodies of his 2001 album MyLoveILove can be considered as a kind of predecessor, just like the uplifting track ‘spring’ from last year’s EP BANANS, but his sound has never been as beautifully haunting as on Addle. Coming out at a moment when the time is absolutely out of joint and daily news from Ukraine and beyond constantly addle our minds, his music functions as a heartening consolation while still engulfing us in some rather baffling, occasionally sinister soundwaves. Sure, escapism is not the best way to cope with everyday reality, then again our brains crave for release and contemplation, and his alluring sonic architecture – we could talk about it in sculptural terms – is ideal for immersive experiences in desolate city streets and forlorn parks.

The bubbly kalimbas and bleeps juxtaposed with his bodiless voice in the opener ‘LADDE’ make for the perfect alarm ringtone. It is as if the listener is gently thrust into wakefulness after a very vivid dream. There is a tangible poptimistic dimension to the productions found on this LP. Some of the tracks with a more metallic patina bring to mind last year’s EP BEND by Dutch producer Upsammy, while others come across as DJ Python’s deep rollers squeezed through an HD braindance mould. The album’s centrepieces, my absolute favourites ‘EADLD’ and ‘ADLDE’, present themselves as a marriage between Beach House’s sunset vibes and The Other People Place’s jazzy electro gems – I have been rinsing both of them daily for the past two weeks.

Even though the track titles, various recombinations of the album’s name, allude to permutations in composition, each track stands as a unique soundworld, independent of the rest. The album closes with ‘ALDDE’, an introspective downtempo/deep house tune marked by pensive slow-burn synths and rainy night atmospherics. Raczynski takes some darker turns here and there, and does not shy away from harsher sound palettes, crushing Casiotone tones, dusty music box sonics, punchy drum samples and muscular sub frequencies, like in the lachrymose pseudo-lullaby ‘DLAED’. But the overall impression I get from this album is that of a celestial sound bath that momentarily washes away all your sorrows. 

The braindance police will have me arrested for saying this, but I was not all that familiar with Boggers’ opus prior to this review, despite his immense influence on the greater scheme of progressive electronic music. It would be easier to say, “sure, I’ve heard of him”, like we tend to when hiding our cluelessness in music debates, but no, I truly “discovered” him as an actual producer, and not just a familiar name, only recently. In all honesty, though, I am glad this was the case. It is always very refreshing to dive into the discography of certain mavericks, whose cultural impact might not be fully understood when reading hackneyed and reductionist electronic music histories, but can certainly be felt when listening to their music and comparing it to the music of the period. 

A true genius in the eyes (and ears) of many, the Polish American electronic musician, who also composed for video games, managed to drill his singular aesthetic into our brain folds with his impactful debut “trilogy” for Rephlex (1999), all bona fide IDM classics, and reached new audiences with his brilliant remix of Björk’s track ‘Who Is It’ from Medulla. Other collabs include names such as Autechre, CLPNG and Jónsi from Sigur Rós, and his music can be found in the catalogues of labels like Warp, Ghostly International, Disciples and more. While in the past decade other IDM visionaries experienced a boost in popularity via contemporary music mags and social media, he has remained a fairly enigmatic and low-key figure, releasing only the album of unreleased tracks and versions Rave 'Till You Cry and more recently the EPs Debt and BANANS

To paraphrase Raczynski, Addle is a record about calmness vis-à-vis turbulence, inertia vs. chaos, static against movement. I think this really is an album about love, intimacy and fragility, and essentially about the necessary violence that gives birth to life and new love, be it a chick breaking its way out of the egg or a butterfly crushing its chrysalis. His compositions, informed by an all-around sophisticated production style with ASMR-esque tendencies, move slowly. They pretend to be repetitive, minimalist and still, but it is a faux feeling – a more attentive listen immediately reveals a complex maze of melodic layers and intricate syncopations that feel surprisingly organic. It is impressive how he manages to simultaneously sound massive, even punishing as in the noise-infused ‘LDDAE’, and comforting. The beauty of Addle, an outstanding record from beginning to end, lies in the fact that Raczynski makes his virtuosic arrangements and tingling timbres sound utterly accessible and inviting.