Ethernet – Opus 2

“Opus 2’s healing power comes from drawing you into its core with a steady rhythm and working the senses while it has you there.” Ian Maleney reviews the new one from Ethernet, out now on Kranky.

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If we draw a line from left to right, from techno to ambient with Basic Channel somewhere in the middle, you will find Ethernet somewhere a little to the right of centre. Tim Gray deals in abstract textures underpinned by simple, repetitive kick and bass patterns that echo into the subliminal void. Melody would be a distraction and there are no fixed points beyond that low end rumble. It could all wash away at any minute.

Gray apparently works the idea of music as a healing or control tool into his work – he has an MA in that exact subject – but there is no chakra realignment or crystal gazing going on here, thankfully. The immediate point of reference is Wolfgang Voight’s GAS and his practically-patented forest-techno. Like GAS, Opus 2‘s healing power comes from drawing you into its core with a steady rhythm and working the senses while it has you there. It’s deeply impressionistic, all colour and no form, wash after wash of resonating texture that flows and swells over that same pulsing sub. There is no break from this formula at all really so it can be quite difficult to separate the tracks from each other. ‘Dog Star’ and ‘Dodecahedron’ are both nice tracks but the only essential difference between them is the chords used and the exact pattern of the bass. The latter also has dubbed out hi-hats that add a swing to the beat at first but do wear out their welcome soon enough.

‘Pleroma’, the last and longest track on Opus 2, opens with a distant squall of feedback and a slow rhythm that sounds like someone walking on gravel. Without the presence of the bass to tie it all together, ‘Pleroma’ floats a lot lighter than the rest of the tracks here. The filter sweeps of the synth line in the distance provides the main point of interest for the first eight minutes or more. The final five sees the broadband noise of the background swell in and out of the picture. It reaches no obvious conclusion and eventually fades out quickly. It’s the only really ambient piece here in that it clearly is mood music, perhaps best played in the background as an aura enhancer rather than as an immersive piece in its own right.

Opus 2 won’t win any awards for ingenuity or ground-breaking experimentation. This is the point though. It is allowed to just “happen” and Gray’s intention is to stay out of the way as much as possible, which he succeeds admirably in doing. If you like GAS or DeepChord or much of Kranky’s recent output, you will probably like this. It feels like an exercise in genre but that particular genre is not exactly short of material these days. Pleasant but nothing more.

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