Two thousand eighteen is starting off with two strong albums. They are quite different, however. The first album for review is from the UK’s Stupid Cosmonaut. This album hit me right in my recent obsession with ambient and electronic music, and so “Digitalis”, which released on January 5th, has really proven itself to be a wonderful album.
The full band is not in play here, apparently, as this album includes Sam Read and Steve McNamara only. The musical style here is progressive ambient and electronic, true blooded to the core, with drone and post-rock tendencies. Much of the album feels rather like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with broad swashes of flowing and dusty programming that feel vibrant and vivid, but also textured. The album does use strong beats, but tends more toward groove and also more creative approaches.
There is one thing about this album that really stands out for me. While I like climactic, elongated progressive electronic song structures as much as anyone, this album does not make you wait long for anything. The songs are shorter (or at least feel that way) and progress rapidly and consistently. Because of this, it is more accessible and could be an easy place for curious listeners to delve into the world of ambient or progressive electronic music.
The band states that this album is meant to reflect a “dystopian future world dependent on synthetic technology operating between the realms of pleasure and a deep unsatisfying anxiety”. I feel strongly that they have achieved that with the sandy tones and the mix between organic and synthetic. The pulsating grooves feel desolate and digital, and the movements of color and texture feel more human and alive.
I have several favorites on this album. The album opens with “Field Trip”, a spacey, ambient adventure in pulsation and electronic groove. “Offline” is a freaky little track with lots going on, more than you’d expect in an ambient electronic album.
“Post Human” is a glum yet melodic track that feels more like a glorious keyboard performance than programming. I love how strong and towering the tone gets near the end. It might be my favorite overall. “Digitalis” is one of the more upbeat, energetic tracks on the album, with a fantastic off-kilter beat and some bustling programming that I love. The album ends with the mournful and subtle “Sorrow and Euphoria”. It’s a perfect contrast and feeling to end this adventure.
“Digitalis” showcases the maturity and restraint of the band. It is not very long at just under 40 minutes. Instead of going crazy and boring us to death in the process, the band gives us just enough of each groove and idea to make us want to hear this album again and again. It’s addictive, I have to admit.
Stupid Cosmonaut has succeeded in yet another album of brilliant ideas, colorful flourish, and mature execution. “Digitalis” is a wonderful album of contrasts and awesome grooves, and I feel like it could convince any hold-outs from electronic music to drop their weapons and join the team. Go buy the album.
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