Module until last year was best known to us for the mighty Shatter soundtrack full of pumping beats and synth guitar riffs. With his first solo album that’s not associated with a game, “Imagineering” takes things to a more celestial and wondrous place.
“A Glass Star” opens with a simple motif played on twinkling bells and bowed glass synths. The song shimmers and sparkles and feels bright and passionate as a light introduction to the album. “Make Out Magic” follows a similar pattern of a simple chord and pattern structure but this time things build, warp, twist and shimmy their way around. From warm electric pianos to glitching beats to the little sonar effects throughout it’s an abstract beauty, but it’s beautiful all the same. “High Way” ditches the more spacious feel for a more compressed electronica. The heavily squashed beat acts as a pressure value for the retro chiptune bass and keyboards that really pulse the track forward. “Tears for ASIMO” I’m assuming refers to the human robot that’s been doing the rounds of late and it’s appropriate to start mixing in real life guitars into all the keyboard work almost as if its blurring the life between fake and real. The track itself feels extremely fluid with the guitar becoming more distorted and twisted around the melodies as the song develops. In contrast “Reflections Scatter” has a fantastic piano motif that repeats whilst a slowly rising synth bass pad grows and hums beneath it. It really gives a great wide feeling – like you’re watching the Earth from space. Magical.
“Sunrise Andrometer” restarts the spacious beats with empty wooshes and crystal hums before bringout out the old square lead synth for a relaxed and chilled solo that’s something you’d get from an 80’s vocoder track. “Stargazer Valley” continues the ever-widening theme although this track is more of a shuffle than an epic space theme. It just has the perfect distillation of lingering guitar strums, power chords, celestial motifs and high frequency percussion. “DNA Sequencing” goes for a mechanical feel with repeating industrial percussive loops and broods itself away for a few minutes before “A Vehement Storm” takes charge and utilises some great looping and pitch shifting tools for an electric piano. The riffs and loops form over a more taut backing track the what has come previously but it’s still quite dreamy as it’s produced to sound like it’s playing on a Vinyl for first half the track. The second half see’s the legs really stretch out and the track is one of the stand-outs on the album.
Entering into the last third of the album see’s “Nantai San Sky” take on a whimsy firework and Asian feel for lots of keyboard embellishments to keep what is a rough and thick bass line under control. It works really well as it all piles in together. “The Pieces Fit” then breaks things down to a piano and synthesised vocal track for only the second track to have any kind of voice in it at all. This one has lyrics and a full song structure. It reminds me of Soft Cell crossed with Portal or a Vocoloid track made with feeling. Sometimes minimalism through a lot of little things can work well and that’s the case here. The more sombre side that started seeping through continues with “A City of Shadows” which calls perfectly on Module’s game music roots as it has several beautiful melodies working side by side in harmony. As the track builds in rapture and grandeur to its climax, more bass lines and pulsating notes push in but it manages to raise your pulse without use of percussion. “Endlessly Ocean” then makes some superb production choices by playing a rolling piano riff and some strings through a gramophone filter whilst all the other instruments get busy and finally start to absolutely rock out – almost like finally everything is being allowed to be released. The drums are turned up to maximum and there’s some excellent looping and mixing of various samples including a female spokesperson and some wind instruments. This track is immense and paves the way for “The World Spins Without You” which glitch swirls around three chords effortlessly whilst a huge kick drum echoes out after each spin round. You can hear various nods to previous samples and noises used in the other songs and it feels like a reprisal of the journey you’ve taken.
“Imagineering” is a difficult album to classify because it’s electronic based, borrows some new age and world elements and then pushes it all through an ethereal mincer. It’s beautiful and lavish and is more atmospheric and engaging than catchy and immediate. Best served with the lights off looking up at the stars in a summer night, this album will whisk you away.