IXTAB’s music is a set of fangs in prime condition, ready and waiting to sink deeply into the raw flesh of its prey, satiating its hunger as it does so. Techno music is often dark, but Alea‘s dark colouring conceals an interesting element, and that’s the use of field recordings. It’s rare for electronic music – particularly beat-oriented music – to be so inviting towards and attracted to the world outdoors, the natural landscape outside the doors of the club and away from the steamy dancefloor. Alea‘s field recordings and electronics are inseparable.
The clinking of volcanic stones, recorded on an iPhone at Oregon’s Lava Lands, and the captured sound from the Cobá pyramidal ruins in Yucatan, Mexico help the music to breathe organically, giving it more of a lifespan in tune to that of the Earth, never dating (and electronic music can sound really dated). The Cobá pyramids give way to the Casio keyboards, their long stretches of sustaining notes pushing into haunted melodies and scattered rhythms. The dark synths growl and grumble as they push the music on. The rhythms kick and knock, rolling through the uneven pits and highs of its rocky topography.
Alea is an interesting album, one that never grows stagnant and one that reveals new things about itself with every listen. Bladed rhythms appear at first to have a violent streak, but they vanish before they can possess the track, and are instead replaced by glowing synths. It sounds just like the treble-high whish and whoosh of a heartbeat as it’s scanned during an echo, and at this point the track is doing much the same thing that the heart does, working out its muscle and pumping the rhythms through the veins of the music, circulating and regulating its flow. Other rhythms bleed into the music, but they’re tiny pieces of debris that don’t last.
IXTAB are Gary James Geiler (Ovis Aurum) and Tim Matts (Blood Room and co-founder of Seagrave Records). And we have the new label, Bezirk (co-run by Daryl Worthington of Beachers and Tristan Bath of Spool’s Out / Missing Organs), to thank for Alea and its ever-changing electronic environment. The slightly warping “Never There”, its ancient synth reminiscent of old, well-worn VHS tapes that get caught in the machine, is almost hauntology music in the mould of say, Pye Corner Audio. A slightly foreboding air hovers in and over the music, but you can’t quite put a finger on its source.
Alea documents intricacy and abrasion, a striking intensity and a subtle taste, a healthy intimacy and a disturbing possession. The easy shuffling of “Eidesis” is silky and graceful, and echoes pulse on and off. Stuttering beats and fluttering synths unsettle the traditional “Techno” tag, meaning that this isn’t its standard territory. And that’s most definitely a good thing. It’s an amazingly diverse electronic record that can stun and seduce in equal measure. These fangs live in a cave of a mouth that’s capable of a kiss as well as a bite. (James Catchpole)
Release Date: April 22