What were you doing ten years ago? Berlin’s Uwe Zahn (Arovane) was thinking about his new album, Ve Palor, laying down preliminary tracks, and watching as the music industry changed. One of his labels shut its doors, and after releasing Lilies in 2004, Zahn dropped out of sight. Ve Palor, including tracks recorded from 2002-2013, has finally been released, and long-time fans will be thrilled. The performer has not lost a step, and perspective has proven that he was far ahead of its time when he began recording in 1998. Ve Palor may be delightfully retro, but it is also retro-futuristic. It’s what we thought the future might sound like a decade ago, but it’s also the sound of something that never happened, like jetpacks. The album forms a bridge between the past and an alternate timeline, providing insight into the road (or galaxy) less traveled.
The expected computer language is present in the staccato beeps and breakdowns. The tempo slows, the music doubles back on itself, a virus runs amok in the machine. The seemingly nonsensical titles (“c ll lt”, recalling “ctr alt delete”, “scrai-n”, recalling “screen”, “leptr”, recalling “laptop”) reference Autechre, although to be fair, these are the sort of titles that Arovane has always used. The crispness of the recording conjures images of sterilized surfaces, like plastic robots with buffed appendages. Ve Palor is sci-fi music, or at least, what we think sci-fi music should be: a cold, white shell surrounding the remnant of a human heart. Without its underlying layer of ambience, the album would just be beats, but its subtle distentions provide hints of emotion, like slow winter fish in a frozen pond.
Electronic music might have bent in this direction a decade ago, but instead it branched. The Raster-Noton and Editions Mego labels still release music in this sub-field, but the mainstream has chosen to embrace other movements. For this reason, Ve Palor sounds simultaneously new and old. There was never enough of this sort of music for one to grow tired of it, which is why it continues to have great appeal. One can dance to these tracks, although the beats often veer off into unexpected directions. Or one can bathe in the patterns and textures, following different percussive threads down different rabbit holes. Either way, Ve Palor is a reminder of IDM’s heyday and a hopeful sign that it may, like Arovane, be on its way back. (Richard Allen)