Few people visiting our website today thought, “I hope they review an album about moss!” And yet, here one is, proving once again that sometimes we don’t know what we like until we hear it. This is the debut album for Swedish producer aircode, a follow-up to 2020’s debut EP Effortless, both on the appropriately named Alien Jams. So often we picture alien life as extra-terrestrial, while forgetting what worlds of wonder teem beneath our feet: entire ecosystems filled with feeding chains and symbiotic relationships.
aircode’s music may not sound specifically like moss, but it does sound like a complex system of roots and branches. Opening title track “Bassäng” means pool, while the other titles refer to rotifer (a microscopic species of aquatic invertebrate), nooks and crannies (“Krypin”), insects and spores. Over the first three tracks, aircode creates an intricate sonic world of creases and crevasses. The mysterious nature of these tracks draws the listener in: sometimes piano, occasionally crunch; the opening piece has one beat. There are many angles, but no dead ends ~ simply new paths, like moss expanding from a single cell to a forest canopy.
The artist shifts gears on lead single “Bring It Back (I Don’t Want To).” While it is the album’s most accessible piece, it would be a stretch to call it crossover. The appearance of her voice, repeating a single line, may cause previewers to make the wrong assumptions about the album as a whole. In context, her voice is a single flower blossoming in alien territory; the following piece trades lyrics for vocal texture, then aircode disappears for a few tracks, back into the sonic earth. When voice returns in “Wow, That’s So Cool,” it backs away from words, preferring rasp, syllable and loop. In “Timesplitters,” the timbre turns to industrial dance; but even this is thwarted with a slower bpm in the ensuing piece. “Reverse” contains bells and a tiny taste of turntablism. One might view the entire album as a rough arc, from conception to decay, spring to autumn, flourishing briefly in the center. Or one might embrace each frame as a new stage in the life cycle. From every interpretive angle, Grounded is a mystery worth unraveling, in which microscopic snippets of sound teem with life, proliferate and form lattices of their own. (Richard Allen)