4 out of 5
Produced by: David Barnard
Dave Monolith is a cool name. That cover of the rainbow-shifted album title has Logan’s Run vibes, given modern sheen by its all-black backing – also cool. It was on Rephlex, and is now on Weme, and these are both very cool label badges of honor. Some albums are just begging to be badass from the moment you hit play.
Thankfully, Dave doesn’t bungle it.
First dropping a decade ago, towards the tail end-ish of Rephlex’s life, Monolith proved – then, and now again, still sounding fresh! – that there was much left to explore in the world of braindance. Hanging out in the kind of grooving, quirky territory of u-Ziq or Global Goon, Welcome is a bit quicker on its feet than a good share of similar funksters, putting a housey vibe first, but with that IDM mentality that keeps tracks shifting, and moving forward. This prevents the album from toppling over into any particular pile: it’s dancey but not overly so; squirrely without being showy; chill without being exactly downtempo. And although there’s definitely a throughline of sound throughout this – a delightfully funky beat, with scale-attacking keys doing boogies atop – Monolith also sets aside chunks of the album that favor certain moods or styles, starting out with a run of pop tunes – ridiculously catchy, light stuff – that give way to a run of more emotive, woozy songs (with fitting names – Windrush; Euphorium) – before a title like Farewell Frenchman veritably announces things are going to get a bit goofy, and they do, going in hard on IDM time changes and percussion rushes until the end of the album.
While this last bit is as fun (and cool) as anything else on Welcome, it does expose a minor flaw: when we’re allowed to sit with a style for several tracks in a row, it exposes how the club-first approach ends up making the whole experience just a tad faceless. The more emotional section is a good indication of how Monolith could expand on their template; or even just by seeding those tracks throughout the album could’ve hidden this hiccup. And faceless doesn’t mean it’s lacking uniqueness, or an m.o. that one might ascribe specifically to the album, rather that it eventually starts to sound a little by-design. This is a finer line to walk with electronic music, when “by design” could be said to be a requirement… but I still find that a lot of my favorites allow a sense of self to infiltrate their works, and Welcome is just a small step away from that, or at least done consistently.
But it’s a small step on an otherwise fantastic album that lives up to its cool-radiating vibes.