The brains behind Sientific American is DJ and all round soundsmith Andy Rohrman, former drummer with Seattle’s Hush Harbor. This bumper, double-CD release brings together all of Rohrman’s vinyl-only output since his debut as Sientific American with 1998’s 12-inch, “Basic Rock Beats.”
The 51-plus-minute first disc, “Saints of Infinity,” comprises an ambient opus in nine untitled parts that reassembles material released in fragmented form on the Sientist’s prior Slabco recordings. Although this epic composition is prefaced with a pair of direct, upbeat, jazz-tinged tracks anchored by resonant double bass, it soon ventures into expansive, meandering soundscapes, often interspersed with spacey and space-themed samples.
For the most part, this quietly hypnotic affair drifts away from the beats, immersing itself in melodically droning waves of synth. In one section, the haunting textures ebb and flow with sonorous reverberations evoking a church organ, while in another the ethereal loops are sporadically punctuated with earth-bound beats. Ultimately, “Saints of Infinity” reaches the end of its epic trip amid the weary crests and troughs of an orchestral faux film score whose melancholy air itself suggests closure.
Whereas “Saints of Infinity” is a fleshed-out and more fluid, distant cousin of early Aphex Twin—at the same time evoking the Orb on one of their extended, atmospheric excursions—disc two is, in comparison, a markedly down-to-earth outing. On “Simulated D.I.Y.,” the homogeneity of the first disc yields to a sonically diverse, more straightforward sound on which the synths take a back seat to more prominent drum patterns.
“Accutrac 4000” sets the tone for the majority of the proceedings here with its big beats reminiscent of the Go-Go style of DC’s Trouble Funk and Chuck Brown. One of the standout tracks—“Boost the Mid-Range”—combines the Go-Go assault with sitar to sublime effect. A brief, mellow mid-section in this track, during which the sub-continental instrumentation stands alone, has Sientific American engaging in a spot of passable ethnological forgery in the tradition of Can. No less successful is “The Flower Sermon” with its intermittent and subtly hovering jazz piano.
At times “Simulated D.I.Y.” has the tendency to get a little bogged down in percussion and, at rare moments, borders on the pedestrian. But the UNKLE-esque “Alternate:Axis:Direct” and “Urban Insurgency . . .. Look Out!” with its double bass, more than make up for any fleeting shortcomings. “x3FF.O/and What Next” brings “Simulated DIY” to a glorious close, gathering together the best elements of the disc—ethnic instrumentation and all—for one last bash.
All in all, this is a stellar compilation that attests to Sientific American’s accomplished versatility. While the engrossing and immensely pleasurable “Saints of Infinity” ranks alongside the better exercises in cerebral electronica, “Simulated D.I.Y.” is no less compelling, above all for its translation of the ambient sound into a format to which the listener may groove as well as listen.
// Notes from the Road
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