On his stunning 2018 album, Bodied, Ital Tek (aka British producer/composer Alan Myson) created an album that seemed to inhabit its own indefinable place, free from the limitations of time and place. He took the physicality and geometry of his sound and created complex, otherworldly soundscapes that felt as if they are actively eschewing any common physical rules.
While Bodied was written in snatched moments during periods working on other projects, the writing of new album Outland took place in self-imposed seclusion as he grappled with the joy and heightened anxiety of becoming a new parent. As such, Outland is a much more restless and jittery album, born from sleepless nights and overwhelming emotional fluctuations. While it broadly exists in a similarly rich and vividly constructed world as Bodied, the tracks on Outland see Myson navigate much more extreme and unpredictable sonic terrain.
Opener “Chamber Music” plunges you headfirst back into his world. From the outset, Myson showcases his ability to operate in the grey areas as his meticulously crafted soundscapes shift from warm and soothing to ominous and unsettling. Synths lines that circle the soul in a warm embrace suddenly fall away like uncomfortable memories. Rich with tension, the music swells as if caught in an expanding sonic bubble before bursting and allowing the synth notes to trickle back to terra firma.
“Open Heart” opens with a steady pulse and deep shocks of synth chords. As with much of the album, each reverberating note and beat evokes a feeling of mild panic like seeing a figure in the shadows only to discover it’s a trick of the light. “Deadhead”, on the other hand, lurches straight out of the darkness. Over jumpy, elasticated beats and a coarse, twisted bassline, it’s an edgy, unhinged delight as Myson revels in cajoling different sounds out of hiding before brutally cutting them off.
Thankfully, the graceful ambience of “Reverie” offers a little respite. It’s a graceful, beatless piece with shimmering synths that mesmerize like fleeting reflections caught in a moonlit pool. This brief lull only serves to heighten the impact of the stunning “Bladed Terrain”. Droning atmospherics seemingly caught in some temporary sonic limbo give way to a distressed synth line like a distant scream before the track locks into a deep groove with metallic percussion and a rumbling bassline. Joined by strafing beats and plummeting synths like a plane caught in a fatal tailspin, it’s a wild ride that quickly overloads the senses.
Over arpeggiated synths and gently moaning electronics, “Diamond Child” is a majestic example of Tek’s ability to craft lush sonic landscapes that resound with the power of an orchestra in full flow. Occupying the middle ground between hope and despair, it’s a beautifully evocative piece with ghostly synth runs and faint wind instrumentation that spirals like a kite caught in an Autumn breeze. The cinematic “Angel in Ruin” is equally as hypnotic as the gentle ebb and flow of the music shifts from contemplative ambience to moments of overwhelming panic.
The subsequent track, “Leaving the Grid”, pulls on the frayed threads that have been left behind and knits them into an enigmatic, textured blanket of sound as warm rushes of electronics and surging synths mingle together. Joined by a squall of stuttering percussion, there is an imposing beauty to it, like watching a wild storm behind a thick pane of glass.
“Endless” is similarly mysterious as palpitating beats and emotive synth melodies gently slide into view as if unexpectedly roused before slipping back into unconsciousness. Album closer “Oblivion Theme” finds Myson peering into the sonic abyss. Droning electronics encourage synth lines to tumble like loose rocks freed by the rumbling analogue bassline. Layers of electronics come together as the track swells with affecting intensity before crawling back into the gloom.
By delving deeper into the world he so distinctly rendered on Bodied, Myson has made his most accessible album to date without compromising his unique musical vision. It’s an album of contrast and tension as tracks veer between extremes as if constantly searching for some kind of indefinable resolution. Ambitious and profound while remaining compelling unpredictable, it’s a constantly shape-shifting, all-encompassing musical experience. Outland is, quite simply, a masterpiece.