Youthful producer Howes has compositional skills beyond his years, working with modular synth patches with a focus often lacking from many stick-all-the-leads-in-and-hope-for-the-best synth dabblers. 3.5 Degrees is his debut album, and is made up mostly of single-take tracks recorded after days of careful patch design. Strong, multifaceted electronics out on Melodic.
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A modular album that doesn’t sound like total sonic garbage. That’s a great prospect for a record in this day of gratuitous and tiresome synth miscellany, where idiots are hailing the modular synth for its ability to make up random circuit noises rather than a more artist-directed approach. It’s the former camp that has nonsensically given birth to the word ‘modular’ as a genre tag (it’s a fucking synth, which have been around for decades u nuts!!) and is generally making people tired of the whole thing.
Enter Howes, who immediately stands out from many modern synthesists by toning it down a few notches, crafting tracks that actually manage to stand firmly on the earth while their head and arms touch the upper atmosphere, searching for oddness amongst the bleeps. Take ‘Zeroset’, for instance: this little murky slow techno thing features some slow burning background atmospherics and a regular kick, with a main synth line that flitters off on little manic runs every now and then. A peek into the insanity of the machine before Howes grabs it and replaces it with more of the long, unfurling notes to envelop you. Sometimes his restriction can result in less textured/layered tracks like ‘Source 000535’, which has a nice subdued dub tech feel but could do with a couple more elements for detail.
It’s all quite lo-fi as a whole with much hiss noise seeping through the quieter parts, which is strange since most modules cost a bomb and don’t have many corners cut in their design. Recorded live to tape no doubt. The best parts of it all, though, are the moments that Howes goes for a melodic meditation - the Laurie Spiegel worship of the opener and the Tangerine Dream-like loops of ‘OYC’ are ones to hear.
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- 3.5 Degrees by Howes
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