by: Alex Smoke

Moving away from the minimalist sound of his 2005 debut, Incommunicado, Scottish techno writer/producer Alex Smoke opens up on Paradolia, creating a full-length album that flows logically from track to track, filled with rich, sonically fascinating arrangements and occasional flashes of genuine pop melodies. Smoke occasionally uses the old ambient house trick of barely audible voices adding subtle tension to the tracks (most notably on "A Moment to Myself"), but his use of vocals is more integral than it had been before. The vocal songs on the album use Smoke's voice in very different ways, from the Bowie-like bored croon of "Never Want to See You Again" to the heavily processed overlaid vocals of "Make My Day," but in each, the vocals aren't simply grafted onto prefabricated beats as in so much techno music. Elsewhere, Smoke's classical cello and piano training is the basis for the remarkable, hypnotic "Prima Materia," which sounds like the logical culmination of Arthur Russell's similar experiments in the '80s, and "We Like it Insipid" is instrumental music that's as needling and defiant as its title. Enjoyably varied and perfectly sequenced, Paradolia is one of the most interesting experimental techno releases of its time. ~ Stewart Mason

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