With Calibrate, Ricardo Donoso continues to offer the best of 21st-century industrial dance music. Preserving the sci-fi and factory tinges of 80s industrial, he adds THX-volume drama and grime-tinged, off-kilter beats, resulting in a sound unique to this era.
“Rendering the Ineffable” is a perfect example of the artist’s approach. Donoso doesn’t produce simply for the dance floor, but works his way up to such segments with extended drum-free passages, heavy on keyboards and suggested percussion. When the track finally peaks in its final quarter, it does so by adding additional layers of pattern, refusing to topple into anything that reeks of the mainstream. Two big booming beats bring the point home. “Metonymy” is more straightforward, but no less complex; the rhythm and tempo are swiftly established, but then extinguished, languishing like a pair of phantom limbs until a pair of percussive elements are added, one seemingly live and the other programmed. When the fat synth arrives, it draws comparison to the sound of Front Line Assembly (and more recently City). The resurrection of industrial music was one of our favorite stories last year, so its continued strength is a distinct pleasure.
We’re especially enamored of the phrase, “having never courted accessibility.” Denovali applies this phrase to Donoso’s oeuvre, and the description is apt. Donoso cares, but doesn’t court; he allows no outside restraint to dictate the parameters of his music. The first single (“In Search of Lost Time”) is also the album’s longest and most contemplative, an ambient/electronic hybrid that betrays none of the album’s viscosity. Those who hear only this track and the sweet “A Vigorous Unfolding” may be shocked by the pounding “A Tour of a Virtual City,” aggressive from first note to last, as agitated as “Lost Time” is calm. “Accessibility” is a slippery term, as hard-edged venues may consider this their sweet spot; but this track won’t make the top forty, and DJs will have to mix the last beatless minute into another track to keep the excitement going. Even within his own album, Donoso throws curve balls, which makes his music all the more exciting in a crowded field that yields too few surprises. (Richard Allen)