With Dark Robot, long time insider favorite Audio Pervert has released something of a manifesto, though the first few listens don't exactly reveal what he's manifesting. The majority of tracks on the album come in over the five-minute mark, which is by no means strange for an electronic album, but is somewhat so for an album with 20 tracks.
For many albums, this could be a death sentence. But Audio Pervert's meticulous care shines through. He's taken time with each of these tracks, allowing them to slowly build and evolve. Two minutes into many of these tunes, I was prepared to be disappointed. But giving Samrat (Bee) the full five minutes was worth it in almost every case. There is a clear sense of destination and progression in his production. The songs give the distinct impression that little was left to chance.
Dark Robot veers wildly across the stylistic spectrum, dipping its very synthesized toe in a variety of genres. On tracks like 'Change the Flow', which features Teddy Boy Kill compatriot Toymob, Audio Pervert moves close to a busier version of Beacoup Fish-era Underworld, touching on the dark synth pop and dreamy vocals of early Gus Gus. 'Espera', featuring vocals by Dinesh Garg, has a similar dreamy dance sound, reminiscent of St. Germain's sexy house opus, From Detroit to St. Germain.
Elsewhere on the album, Audio Pervert moves away from the dancefloor and towards something darker. On 'UHeldMe(DownLift)', Samrat reimagines Sulk Station's 'Downdrift'. I've compared Sulk Station's Tavi Rao to Tricky muse Marina Topley-Bird before, but the comparison has never been as apt as here. Deep oscillating bass meshes with industrial atmospherics to produce one of the album's highlights, and a remake that gives the original a serious run for its money.
The industrial influences extend beyond a few moments on 'UHeldMe'. 'Animal' brings a mellowed industrial sound that dips into the territory of American big-beat artists such as Crystal Method. Donn Bhatt's top notch vocal performance on the track brings a touch of the nasal drawl of Butthole Surfers' frontman Gibby Haynes, echoing "I want to be with an animal" over and over, immersed in gurgling bass.
The challenge in addressing an album like Dark Robot is that one could write twenty paragraphs on each of the album's twenty songs. Although the songs fit together better than they have any right to – the disc's consistency is in atmosphere, not in style – the listener may still be caught off guard by what comes next. But Audio Pervert has never been afraid of catching you off guard.
The album is at its best when – as the title suggests – it's at its darkest. Numbers like 'Gymnopedi', a reimagining of French composer Erik Satie's much-borrowed waltz, is most notable for its time signature, a rarity in contemporary dance music. As the instrumental sounds because progressively more synthetic, they fall dangerously close to the schmaltzy lounge territory best embodied by DC's Eighteenth Street Lounge label.
And when Audio Pervert decides to deconstruct a Keisha vocal sample to make her say "dicks have come around" - "an ode to the buffalo male junta of our country", in his words - he seems to let his clever idea overtake his production. To be clear, the idea is brilliant. Audio Pervert begins to make a legit pop-club banger out of it, but it appears like mid-way through the song he decided that he'd rather focus his energy on the songs that aren't satire. Which is a shame, because satire works best when it's done all the way, without a hint of wink.
Likewise, the album slumps in the four atmospheric interludes. There's nothing wrong with them, per se, but somebody involved in the production of this album should have more boldly suggested that an album that clocks in at over 90 minutes could probably stand to come back under that mark by losing the seven spare minutes of dark ambient sound.
But Audio Pervert has accomplished an impressive task. Dark Robot is rich, rewarding, and stylistically complex. The sounds are the clear product of a meticulous effort, and the production is clean and lush. The breadth of guest contributors brings human warmth to an album that could otherwise be alienating. Truth be told, I may delete four or five tracks from my playlist when I keep listening to Dark Robot but I'll definitely keep listening.
Stream Songs from Dark Robot and more music by Audio Pervert here.
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