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Album Review
Motor City

Motor City
by Sand Circles

Not Not Fun

Review Date
17th July 2012
Reviewed by
Martyn Pepperell

Did you ever ask yourself the question, what is music about? Music can be about a few things (that was an understatement by the way). Music is about stories, journeys, experiences, exploration and expression. Obviously how you stretch these frames depends on your definition of music. And whether you're an orthodox rock loving uncle in Ohio, an experimental noise acoustonaut in Tokyo, a hangi chord reggae hobbyist from the Coromandel or a young swag rap merchant from Harlem, these definitions may well be oceans apart; or perhaps even closely related. For Stockholm producer Sand Circles (Martin Herterich), Motor City, his second release on well loved Los Angeles label Not Not Fun, seems to be about a storyline, set through imagery and song titles, and expressed as an experience by virtually filmic textures, tones and rhythms.

Hung around a series of song titles such as "Entering Motor City', 'Innercity Haze', 'Distant Lights' and 'Downtown Hold-up', on Motor City Herterich employs vintage sounding synthesiser motifs, worn drum machine programming, excessive reverb and a spacious use of echo. Everything sounds aged back, but ultra modern, so ultra modern that a sense of decay, dust and grime has set in. Think of the desolate, ghostly cityscapes utilized within Philip K Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Now add a sandstorm of white dust due to a desert location and pull the living population down to even bleaker numbers. We've left with a decaying empty city of the future, ransacked by clouds of harsh white dust, mostly populated by machines, going about their tasks until their batteries run down to zero. As a thesis statement - Blade Runner in a sand storm.

Taping into the same afterhours space accessed by Burial, as juxtaposed with the stark cold war vibes of the Ghost Box label, Herterich pushes his hypnotic forms through a similar sense of synthesiser fetishism to Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds and many of the other numerous, non identifying citizens of that unaligned movement sometimes called Hypnagogic Pop, other times described as Glo-Fi, never quite correctly analysed or coded.

Within these old/new yet still old interzone, Herterich structures songs which range from a minute and a half to six and a half minutes. Rarely standing still, the vast majority of the songs are propelled forwards by a sense of drive which feels like, well, driving though the aforementioned cityscape and it's surrounds. And sure, moments of pause do occur on numbers like 'Distant Lights' and 'Descending Into Space' (respectively studies in digital desert blues and spiralling celestial synth jam), but come on, with sonic scenery like this, it would be rude not to talk a proper look.

Come to album concluder 'Summer Echoes II', this sense of pause is revisited, sweeping pads giving way to tape hiss in a way that suggests that, in whatever sense it still manifests amongst the smog clouds, the city has just seen sunrise. As an exercise in journey and textures, Motor City is a great listen.


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