Datassette ‎– Kestrel Manoeuvres In The Dark

3 out of 5

Label: Central Processing Unit

Produced by: John Davies

This is a lot of fun, but ultimately feels a little short-sighted. Kestral Menoevres In The Dark might first, from a top-down view, garner some notice due to its song titles – the title track and something like To The Scullery! have a kind of pun-ny self-awareness that I feel is more often found in indie rock than electronica. Not to say any one genre has exclusivity over that, but I do tend to associate a reflected restraint in the music bearing such titles, even when I’m a fan of whichever band has gone all jocular on me. And Datasette’s four tracks here do have that, often beholden to a particular idea and then just sort of dropping out when the idea has been expressed. The “ideas” are definitely strong, and perhaps strongest on the title track itself, which also happens to be the most fleshed out. and longest composition, working a chill, vaguely gamey synth tone and laidback groove through a whole bunch of great permutations along a very danceable scale. Followup Scullery! is an interesting inversion, boiling things down to just the synths, but here’s where the short-sightedness begins, as the track feels like it’s welling up some emotion, but doesn’t do anything with it. As an interstitial song, this would work pretty well, and indeed, the next track – Stoatle Excelsior – has a pretty wicked, IDM click-and-bleep baseline, but because it also just kind of hangs on this setup without much development, it’s not the best backer to Scullery. Closer Polyhedron Navigator is rather brilliantly muted, though, stepping over and across various Aphex affectations and cutely poking at a beat without ever releasing it. I’m not sure it draws things to an effective close, necessarily, but it’s an intriguing and quirky bit of experimentation that earns its runtime by continually shifting.

To be clear, all of the tracks on Kestral are a good time. Individually, they stand up as solid bits of production, with strong central themes, and some absolute standout moments. Combined together, though, it’s hard to get a sense of Datasette as an artist, as the overall range feels somewhat tamped down.