With their first album in six years, original odd couple duo ISAN remind us why theirs is a name which is highly regarded in the right kind of electronica circles. The pair have been making low key under the radar music for nigh on two decades and 'Glass Bird Movement' promises to explain why their music has been compared to the likes of Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin and Ulrich Schauss. Get on board.
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Anthony Ryan and Robin Saville have been making their particular brand of gentle, melodic and crystal-clear electronica as ISAN for two decades now, and their sound reaches its apotheosis here on their eighth album. ‘Glass Bird Movement’ took a full six years to reach us but it was worth the wait; the record marks a career high point and a remarkable progression as the delicate elements and components of their synthesis have come together more coherently than ever before.
The opening cut ‘Cuckoo Down’ is lush and deceptively intricate in its textural detail. As the rhythm softly turns the synths develop beautiful harmonies over the top, growing languidly as in the formation of quartz crystals. Sometimes those melodies can seem alien, insect-like and sparse (‘Lace Murex’), but they then evolve prettily, patiently, with bass pulses warmly pushing the flow onward. Newcomers may note resemblances to prime chill-time Aphex Twin, or the more concise compositions of Ulrich Schnauss (particularly on the album’s title track) and I can’t argue with that. I’ve followed the duo’s music for years -- going back to their ‘Clockwork Menagerie’ compilation of early EPs -- and I hadn’t made mental comparisons to other artists before. I think of them as unique musicians who happen to make lovely and intelligent music.
‘Parley Glove’ has to be one of the most ear-ticklingly gorgeous tracks they’ve made so far. The hazy rotation of organ-like synths, the faded tinkle of a rising piano motif and the distant chirrup of birds, with other engineered bleeps and bubbles, are all set against an easy rhythm. This.. makes.. for.. blissful listening. Oh yes. The elegant ‘Leonardo’s Formula’ is another highlight; there are many other magical delights on the record but I am sadly out of time and word-space. Let’s hope they don’t make us wait another six years for the next one.
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