Three years removed from Orchids & Wasps, Berlin’s GIL has returned with a more refined sound. Where the previous EP was hyperactive, the new EP is merely energetic; where the previous EP was sparse, the new EP is dense. There’s a place for each, although we prefer the nuanced; speed, although a selling point, is less an indication of talent than complexity. GIL refers to the compositional approach as infolding, reflecting the introspection of the artist as well as the sonic magnifying glass of the listener.
The music is well-matched in Maya Rochat‘s cover art, “Meta Iceberg”, found in her 2017 photobook A Rock Is A River. The Swiss artist blends photography and painting in an impressionistic manner one might call enhanced nature. As such, she is perfectly paired with GIL; each artist has something extra going on underneath the surface. Enter Infolding at “Dustgreen,” and one may believe GIL to be an ambient artist; enter at “Swallow Ash,” and one may intuit industrial. “The Place of Falling People” contains a sample that sounds like a revolution or a parade, military drums striking up a warning or a celebration. In like fashion, one’s interpretation of Rochat’s work may change depending on what one sees first: photography or enhancement.
“Compact Renewal” will be the entry point for most listeners. On the surface, the lead single is a dance stormer. But are the sirens meant to be a harbinger of a raid or a rave? Is the elongated telephone ring (2:49-2:57) a commentary on social intrusion or a simple sound effect? Does the title refer to compact renewable energy or to a renewal of a relationship? GIL isn’t saying; he playfully calls the album “a game of hide and seek.” Fortunately, there’s plenty to find. “Swallow Ash” finds elegance in harsh textures. The build (2:07) leads to a drop that earns its drama. And only parts of the piece are club-friendly, which allows GIL to make the music he wants instead of bowing to the masses.
In “Thirty Birds,” a piano emerges from crackle, a left turn that reaches deeper territory. Toward the end of the track, orchestral flourishes emerge: a hero’s theme, albeit melancholy, akin to the return of Odysseus. Something happened to GIL since Orchids & Wasps that transformed his approach. When the EP ends, he opens another door; but only he can see what’s on the other side. (Richard Allen)