As a musician who dips his toes in both electronica life and acoustic instruments, I’m always fascinated when I find someone else doing an interesting blurring of the lines between what’s real and what’s synthetic. Noel Griffin’s new album”Sentient Life” does just this – fusing heavy electronica and ambient elements with real instruments that are recorded in unusual ways. The result is something that feels like an alien planet, grown from Earth seeds.
After an awakening opening to the general sound palette with “Intro Venus”, “Nectar and Silicone” takes metallic thuds and transforms them to tuned percussive melodies over razor-sharp bass lines and heavy beats, whereas “Sunbeams on a Glass Tower” is more ambient and freeform. “Player One” sounds like a mash-up of rock guitars and traditional Indian bounce beats. Throughout the album, there’s a slight chiptune/computer game music element to each track with the thick synths in use and here it’s allowed to shine instead of hiding underneath.
Single “Follow Me” is a spacious sci-fi dream and I love how the whole thing sounds like its tape warped and mildly uneasy. The song title and album themes revolve around machine life and their sonic presence is everywhere, but here it feels sinister but enticing. “CPU, Everything Is Possible” continues the more electronic trend with some Country guitar motifs set against pitch bending synths – it feels like a coming of age moment – but for a robot. The title track is a mesh of complex melodies and synths that play around a four-chord pattern – like all things are coming together in a spaghetti junction.
“Phonic Mnemonic” is a fascinating piece that blends between rock and chiptune effortlessly. The whole song has a crunch filter on it that sounds like it’s been squashed in a radio speaker for 1950 and stands out from the rest as a result. The album takes a turn towards more rhythmic ambient with “Ava Synthetic Four” and in particular “Hypersleep II” which lets you shuffle along to something almost mocking vaporwave music. My favourite track, however, is the sublime “In Arcadia”. The mix of Eastern musical instruments, clever rhythms and futuristic synths is fantastic and the melody is a swirling one that just swells and swells. I could listen to it on repeat for ages. “The Maschinemensh” reminds me of the composer Lifeform with its sinister bell synths and secret arpeggios. It’s very sci-fi but also very 1970’s public TV station advert and that’s the beauty of it. The album closes with two industrial techno-lite tracks which give an ascension to the whole piece.
Music producers have to cut a niche for themselves and Noel Griffin has done very that but creating a robotic yet human experience full of great rhythms and catchy motifs and melodies. For those who love electronica, you have a new man on your radar.
Recommended Track: Follow Me