Riz Malsen has had quite the career. In the 90s she worked with likes of 4hero and The Future Sound of London as well as a fruitful and varied solo career. The Absolute Elsewhere is her first album as Neotropic in nine years, an album of industrial psychedelic electronic music that is at home in "new weird Britain".
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Riz Maslen has had a career thus far that has both threaded a path through the broken beat wizardry of 4hero and journeyed with cosmic ambienteers Future Sound of London. Yes, that was Maslen’s haunting vocal on tech-chillout classic ‘Papua New Guinea’ (also a huge pop hit in 1991 as it happens). None of this could have prepared us for Maslen’s first album in nine years as Neotropic, ‘The Absolute Elsewhere’.
Harnessing some ominous sounds seemingly inspired by cosmic dream-weavers Coil, throughout the course of this towering record Riz deconstructs, reconstructs and then steadily disassembles the hopes, dreams and fears of humanity via an anti-war narrative grounded by the considerable weight of today’s intimidatingly challenging and often grim realities. Seems a bit heavy, huh? Well, previous (slightly pretentious) sentence now considered, we can move on and say this really is more serious than a woodland stroll. No less a serious business than making music as art -- and socially-observational commentary -- ought to be, perhaps. But then, the music on this CD also happens to be downright ravishingly beautiful.
Electronics are sweepingly cinematic; full of gritty textural detail, impregnated with lurking atmosphere and peppered with sky-scraperly dramatic peaks. Then let’s consider the Riz voice (finally, you say): a vocal with qualities as soft as silk yet strong as steel; Maslen fully makes use of her gift which lifts her music and enveloping ambience with delicate, earthly timbres and lithe, soaring neo-operatic calls and crescendos -- with a full range to be heard between the two. As experienced particularly vividly on tracks ‘Byzantium’ and ‘Pleiades’.
The Absolute Elsewhere is thoroughly involving emotionally, often life-affirmingly so; a journey which affords plenty of opportunities for self-reflection along its route. Perhaps expectedly, its conclusion is a realistic resolution but even so there is still room for a hint of cautious optimism. The fact that this music -- music as carefully constructed and gorgeously realised as evidenced here -- exists while pondering such concerns, is a cause for celebration and yes, a reason to be grateful.
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- The Absolute Elsewhere by Neotropic
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