Re_Calibrate is the counterpart to 2018’s Calibrate, an industrial album that has aged particularly well. The rounded geometrical shapes on the cover have been replaced by angles, but the sense of drama remains intact; if anything, it’s been amplified. This is the fifth Ricardo Donoso album we’ve reviewed, a rare honor that speaks to the artist’s consistency.
Donoso’s music is powerful and percussive, dark and nuanced. Lead single “Forced Perspective” stops and starts multiple times before plunging into the abyss, balancing the lightness of a ping-pong ball against the heaviness of distortion; and all to a BPM that barely breaks 100. The piano makes a surprise appearance, increasing the dynamic contrast. This isn’t just dance music, it’s thought music.
Surprisingly, Re_Calibrate begins in a lighter mood, balancing ambience with electronics. It takes a couple minutes for the big beats of “Natural Beam Injection” to enter. By easing the listener into a sci-fi world, Donoso allows for a smooth transition. The future has already arrived. “Running Counter To” breaks the mold with ice cream timbres and intimations of innocence; at this point, the album enters a deeper phase. The synth’s solo moment (1:45) plunges it pleasantly into the foreground, while thumb piano widens the palette. It’s a pleasure to hear industrial music that doesn’t rely on menace to make an impact. “A Hostage of the Past” is much slower, almost a rumination, as its title suggests. The choir catches the listener off guard, but speaks to the album’s lofty goals. To recalibrate is to readjust one’s path in light of new information; in this piece, the artist recalibrates his own timbre.
Re_Calibrate flows better than its predecessor, offering a synthesis between light and dark rather than a confrontation. If the new album frontloads its bangers, it’s only to capture the attention. The magic develops once one is reeled in. The album ends with the sinister “Alien in Fetu,” which is not a dance track by any stretch of the imagination; instead, it’s a dialogue between the known and the unknown. The frontier is wide open for those brave enough to enter. (Richard Allen)