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Album Review

by Proton Beast

Muzai Records

Review Date
11th February 2015
Reviewed by
Nich Cunningham

Digitizer is the inaugural album from Auckland ensemble and long time lurkers Proton Beast. Formerly a binary of Stuart Harwood and Westley Holdsworth (drums and guitar respectively), the band has upgraded its sound with the addition of ex-Dimmer/D4 low-end-specialist turned guitarist Vaughan Williams. This expansion has opened up creative possibilities for the group and inspired them to extend what was conceived as an EP into a sprawling eight-track concept album.

Rather than some tedious 1970s self indulgence, the concept of Digitizer presents mainly in the production style. Vocoding, bit-crushing and ring modulated signal processing are folded into what is, at times, extended minimal post-rock and at others, doomy sludge. The contribution of engineer Edward Castelow is undoubtedly key to this, and the end result is as lush as it is intensive. It’s like Trans Am amok in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Proton Beast cover a variety of musical territory: 'Tetris' is a menacing 8-bit psychedelic nightmare while 'Cimmerians' relieves the claustrophobia, only to replace it with agoraphobic anxiety. 'Unexpected Error' finds Proton Beast at their most upbeat and energised; it sounds almost friendly. While title-track 'Digitized' completes the circle with its Daft Punk meets Cult of Luna vibe.

Let's face it, concept albums can be stupid yet Proton Beat ingeniously sidestep that pitfall. Their key idea provides sonic character and a palette to draw from. None of which would matter if the music itself was dull. But it’s not: the sprawling droning density of this album is compelling and constitutes a real artistic achievement for the band.


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