Tympanik Audio, 2009
Don’t worry, I still keep my ears open for IDM, but good new albums are few and far between. This debut from Sebastian Ehmke on Chicago label Tympanik Audio is a notable exception. From the cleansing tones and stress-fractured static of the opening track, “Komplex_A,” I could tell I was in for a treat.
“15mg” is an obvious highlight, with slow broken beats and melancholy minor keys. Hints of melody compete with speaker-chewing crunches. “23R0 & TH3 5T4R5” and “Hitchhiker” are both simple and cinematic, reminding me of old Bola. “I Need a Medic” is more fully realized, with unexpected bassline key changes and a hip-hop beat.
I’m not saying this is a perfect album. Some of the sounds are a bit too generic. “Null,” for example, is a fun romp, but I know I’ve heard a similar track somewhere before. “Androgenetic Bullshit” has lots of notes but little melody, while the piano loop on “Aer-” is too Philip Glass-like for my taste.
It’s worth waiting, though, for the closing tracks: “Komplex_B” is hauntingly beautiful; “No Need For Voices” is immersive, lush ambience. There are three bonus remixes as well. My favorite is Quench’s take on “15mg.” Massive bass creates its own melody.
While Ehmke’s work doesn’t (yet) represent a new direction, it’s nice to hear a new voice. I’m also heartened there are still labels taking risks on less easily marketed sounds.