3 out of 5
Label: Central Processing Unit
Produced by: Julian Kochanowski, Melissa Speirs
Fun, but… confusing.
Biochip maintain their ability to cover various electro offshoots on their third release, Crux Alley, but while these offerings are some of their most layered yet, there’s also this huge blanket of restraint covering about half of the album, locking the A-side into repetitive grooves that chill the initial zip of its tracks’ bubbling bass and synth lines. They finally break free of that via the aggressiveness of the appropriately named Antagonist Part 6 – dropping a heavy beat and cutting it up IDM-ly throughout – and then the B-side starts with all of the confidence and depth and none of the limitations; it’s magic. The also appropriately named Dopamine City goes minimal, but packs a range of emotionality into its clipped rhythms, and The Legacy and Neutral Current hit upon weird-ass groove and then bouncy, slick, Rephlex-y downtempo, respectively. This is certainly enough goodness to recover from the puzzling comparative blandness of the openers, but then closer Tower 13, despite having a wonderfully moody core keyboard tune and haunting effects, falls somewhat into the same trap as those first few tracks, or at least the group doesn’t give the song enough time to feel fully explored. So we end sort of half-baked, and then if you revisit the album to double check the experience, it furthers that sensation… until Antagonist kicks in again.
Biochip are still definitely one of the most promising new acts out of the CPU / Weme stable, and Crux Alley doesn’t diminish that, per se – last release Hexamer Recon had them playing around with a more clubbish vibe at points, and this album could be said to be exploring how to achieve some kind of balance between their varying styles. When it works, it’s exciting, and immersive, but when it doesn’t, it can leave you pretty cold.