How best to combine electronic dance with modern composition? In this reviewer’s opinion, the answer is to include real instruments, as are found here, where violin, viola and cello join electric and acoustic guitar and bass. In the hands of The Gilder, these elements become the meat of a solid dance EP.
A second key is to use the sound of strings as more than adornment. In other words, a successful blend includes the impression that melodies have been written rather than sampled. Counter-melodies (especially apparent on “Water’s Edge”) allow listeners to appreciate the fact that Mechanical Sea is more complex than beats and melodies. The appeal stretches from the club to the living room, making this EP a solid home listening experience. A nod to classical music via a scratchy sample on “Pig” solidifies the impression. On this closing piece, a scratch turns into a handclap, a neat trick new to these ears. That’s to say nothing of the sampled pig!
The title track, the highlight of a strong set, illustrates another strength of The Gilder: the integration of physical art and sound art. While looking at the cover, one thinks immediately of clocks, which tick loudly at the beginning of “The Mechanical Sea”, leading to what one might call an ocean of sound: BIG bass, booming synth tones, stuttered drums, xylophone, and cooed lyric-free female vocals. This is an intriguing combination, so much more than what one typically encounters. It’s a slow-moving banger, at 60 b.p.m. requiring a bit of restraint on the dance floor, but in light of recent pop hits “Sail” and “Radioactive”, this is the right time for such a tempo. Could it cross over? Absolutely. Should it cross over? Without a doubt. Will it cross over? Mainstream audiences would probably prefer the pig. Overall, the best shot may be “Dub Acoustica”, with its wet bass offset by melodic strings. A super-sweet breakdown allows the orchestral elements to shine without being subsumed.
Underground music is only underground until more people hear of it. We hope that news of this one spreads quickly. In the meantime, we’re glad to be in on the ground level. (Richard Allen)