Russian-born, Sweden-based Ivan Pavlov (CoH) is an intensely cheerful performer and a sheer delight to watch. After seeing him in concert, attendees can’t help but hear his music in a visual way. His songs begin gently, with electronic pulses and beeps; then a knob turns, a button is hit, or an extra pattern is engaged. Whenever any element changes, Pavlov smiles at his equipment, clearly pleased that it is producing such healthy bleeps and bonks. Once in a while, he lets all of the electronic children play at once, and the smile on his lips tugs into a laugh. His music clearly gives him joy. Those in attendance mimic Pavlov’s engagement, beginning with toe taps and nods that quickly develop into dancing feet and twirls. This happy abandon is difficult to capture in a studio production, but Retro-2038 comes close.
Although CoH (Russian for “sleep” or “dream”) draws from different influences, including Yaz, Moroder, Depeche Mode and Front 242, his sound is unmistakably his own. Purely percussive in nature, his tracks tend to establish patterns, stop, and restart rejuvenated. This is electronic body music in the purest sense, meant to coax the body into action. A beat is suggested even when one is absent; every track has an obvious tempo. As the title suggests, Retro-2038 is future music with a retro sheen: robotic, but less aligned with current robotic science than its cinematic depictions.
Almost every track here contains the potential for club success, although some of the more minimal tracks (such as “Time to Time”) would need remixes to make them eligible. Even at home, the body begins to move of its own accord. The 150 b.p.m. “Bugs Build a House” contains a wet and warped breakdown that launches the track into its second, seemingly faster phase. The track’s twitchy nature belies the fact that it contains no drums. The same is true for “Disco Discrete”, which despite its title is the album’s most industrial-sounding selection. “Vainio” is even faster than “Bugs”, but sounds slower due to its experimentations in tempo and descents into near-stasis. Perhaps this is where sleep meets dream – in the cryogenesis of interstellar travel. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 13 May