Raetina, an electronic melange of uncommon styles, is Tan’s confident debut album. Live instruments (most prominently a Rhodes) are diced and dropped into a seething pit of glitch. Micro-melodies gather and dissipate. A sub-bass rises from the depths like a prehistoric fish. The chance to hear something new is the album’s drawing point; Raetina may be a little bit Aphex Twin and a little bit Raster Noton, but it’s not wholly like either. Blame Tan’s experience as an ensemble leader (the art of putting together) and his sound installation work (the art of taking apart).
Tan calls his compositional technique “non-linear”, which seems an apt description. When he sings (only occasionally), he strays away from verses or obvious structure, preferring to use his voice as an additional sound source ripe for manipulation. Each choice stems from intent, even if some may seem random at first. The pulse of “gleichzeitig” quickly contorts; a cloud field at the center of “itadakimasu” is followed by melody and piercing squeal. It’s possible that Tan is toying with expectation here, but more likely that he is composing without constraint. Why follow the rules if breaking them produces more pleasing results? And yet, nothing on Raetina comes across as robotic, abrasive or chilling. The organic instruments may be manipulated, but their warmth remains intact.
The one-two punch of “skeletal (mass)” and “skeletal (altitude)” form the heart of the album. Mass and altitude may not be words typically applied to music, but each is evident here. The mass makes its appearance at 1:54 in a gyrating wind tunnel; the altitude comes into play through the relative lightness of the second piece, lifting off like a hot air balloon by dropping the ballast.
Raetina is an original effort from an original artist, one whose very background has allowed him to (selectively) ignore his background, a lesson well learned at an early age. (Richard Allen)