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Music

Norwegian Producer Andre Bratten Continues His Signature Moody Electronic Music on 'Pax Americana'

Photo: Smalltown Supersound

Andre Bratten's Pax Americana is full of contemporary synths with an undercurrent of low-key gloom, as suits the general mood of 2019.

Pax Americana
Andre Bratten

Smalltown Supersound

28 June 2019

"I've always been fascinated by how a sound can make you feel, without being something you can touch. I've always been more interested in sounds than music." Anyone who hears the music of Andre Bratten would probably not be surprised by that quotation of his. The music he creates conveys more of a mood than standard compositional structure. Hooks are largely eschewed in favor of drones and long, sustained chords. Big blocks of sound are placed on top of dance beats, creating a distinct, satisfying feel but hardly something you can hum along with.

This sound – apparent on earlier works like Be a Man You Ant (2013), Math Ilium Ion and Gode (both 2015)established the Norwegian musician as artist worthy to be mentioned alongside artists like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, and Autechre. Two years ago, Bratten moved from downtown Oslo to the suburbs, building a new home studio and essentially re-learning the process. The label Smalltown Supersound released the first fruits of that new atmosphere with a series of 12-inch singles, and Pax Americana – the first full-length release from Bratten 2.0 - includes three songs from those releases.

There's a low-key techno funk aspect to Pax Americana, but it's not so downbeat as to qualify as anonymous background music. The track "426" contains a great deal of tension within the groove, with the keyboards providing a bit of twitchy atonal unease as the drum programming shifts around different types of beats, often stopping and starting at odd moments. Bratten ekes brash waves of sound out of the moody, funky "Commonwealth" that's more unnerving than ambient.

But there's also odd comfort on tracks like "HS", which hums along like a bullet train as the notes bounce around a swift dance beat. The title track, which Bratten composed the day after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, combines an urgent beat with warm, enveloping synth chords, the result of which is something of a meditation on the world's chaos.

"Ranx" is an interesting track in that frenetic beats often pull back to a simple hi-hat pulse, making room for tasty keyboard slabs. Bratten is interested in creating not just moods, but subtle dynamics as well. The album closes with "Recreation 26B", a dark but driving piece that sees the beat gradually disappear on or about the halfway mark, as keyboards and various ambient sounds begin to drop out and fade, one by one. It's as if Bratten knows he has to end the album but isn't quite ready. It doesn't overstay its welcome; rather, the album fades out like a picturesque sunset. Like the day, the music is over - but hopefully, more is on the way.

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