With thirty releases in the past three years, it’s fair to say that Hobo Cubes (Montreal’s Francesco De Gallo) has had his ups and downs. But over the course of the last year, the artist has been honing his craft, trying to find the right balance, closing in on a signature sound.
The artist wields drones and beats like sonic oils and brushes, traveling from the abstract to the specific. Mirror and Gate Vol II was all beats and angles; his half of the Taiwan split was more subdued. But December’s single track “Membrana” zeroed in on Hobo Cubes’ strength: the ability to combine the sustained sound with the sudden. Apex Ideals continues on this path, and it’s the right one. While “Membrana” traveled through multiple phases over the course of a quarter hour, Apex Ideals is given more than twice the time to unfold. It may be billed as a nine track album, but it operates better as a long form piece.
“Okay”, De Gallo says at the beginning of the opening track. “Okay.” The sound echoes that found on “Phase I”, the opening piece on last month’s Evolution of a Time Delayed. It’s as if the artist is taking a deep breath, steadying his nerves, preparing to enter the unknown. And in a way he is. This is his first venture onto the high platform of vinyl, and there’s more pressure to perform. Fortunately, he’s up to the task. At first, both influences are present – the drone and the beats. “Structures in Stasis” begins with high percolation, switching to decaf in the second half, ultimately coming to rest like a worn out warrior. The distance travelled from start to end is enormous, yet every transition is smooth. By the rain and rumble of “Fluidity”, the listener realizes that Apex Ideals will be rife with experimentation. Here the mood comes first, then the drums; other works choose one or the other.
This is the rare instance in which an electronic album contains both ambient textures and steady beats, yet is designed neither for napping nor for dancing. The track titles “Sudden Sleep” and “Restlessness” underscore the dichotomy. Apex Ideals unfolds like a soft suite, signaling before switching lanes, more curve than swerve. The slowed speech, train sounds and Carpenter-esque synths of “Unit” provide a second-half highlight, rivaled by the glitchy loops of “Synchronicity”.
De Gallo contributes his best work to this release, reinforcing a point we’ve made with other prolific artists. Our advice is to slow down, to store up great ideas like a squirrel in summer, so that every new release will be this appealing. Hobo Cubes, think of this as your apex ideal. (Richard Allen)