Gatekeeper – Exo

Jason Simpson / July 17, 2012

Score: 6.0/10.0
Hippos In Tanks

Gatekeeper are expert recreationists. On the previous Giza EP, the pairing of Aaron David Ross and Matthew Arkell channeled 1980s slasher synths to make a modern horror pop record. With Exo they have decided to master the world of Alex Gray electronica.

Here’s what the press release has to say:

“Exo takes the exotic, outlandish after-hours of Giza to an entirely higher setting. The lust and rust of Giza have evaporated in the blinding light of universal mind, leaving behind the silvery, glowing ecosystem of Exo in its wake. Here Hollywood FX meld with twisting 303 basslines, angelic choirs with metallic synths, cut-up chants with cryptic chords — all fused together by a tight blend of IDM, acid and big-beat inspired techno rhythms. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole – the tracks blend seamlessly to create a continuous environment with a consistent, deep-breathing feel. Imagine angelic dewdrops in a deep forest clearing; diving off a cascading, crystalline waterfall to an instant river.”

It does tend to sound like a rave in “Avatar”’s forest. Its got all the sticky saccharine surplus of Techno in spades – robust booty bass and whining synth filters, giving it that futuristic edge. Exo sounds like a 90s rave flyer looks. They have distilled 90s techno to its free-base core, and they can give it to you wholesale. Club producers have got it going on these days, the bass has never sounded haler than it has in 2012. Innovative producers are learning how to gel genres and moods in ever more surreal dreamscapes.

In many ways this record sounds like music of the future, in the present. It is bright and clear and sharp, and doesn’t leave much to implication. It is destined to be broadcast from tiny telephones, and in 30 second intervals. Gatekeeper are investigating the Spectacle, and doing a fine job. They are trying to make worlds. On Giza they made a video for every track, and released the compilation on VHS. For Exo, they have had a first-person video game environment designed by Tabor Robak. They are clearly hungry and detail-oriented. When re-creating and stylizing a previous moment or trend, one has the ability to focus on the keenest edges. There is much about 90s rave culture that is not to be missed. But there was a euphoria, a revolutionary optimism. That spark has found its rightful home today, and we have the tools to cultivate that flame.

If you have never had a soft spot for rave music, you will hate this music. You will not be able to get down with its Atlantean adventure. And its not really for a radio culture, either, although many of these tracks are slick enough to make their way into more progressive playlists. But if you can get past the bubbles, there is some sick production on this record. If you have been digging what The Weeknd have been doing, or recent upsurges from Regis and Scuba, what some refer to as ‘Post-Dubstep’ and others simply call ‘Bass Music’, you can get lost in these caverns. The fact that it is so widely different from their previous makes you wonder what these lads are capable of. Sometimes Exo comes off like bad CGI, can leave you wanting for grit. But its a heady carpet-ride, and it DOES sound great and feels good. They get a B+ for effort.

This is Gatekeeper’s first full-length record. They are clearly pulling off grand illusions. It should be interesting to see where they go from here.

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