Maelstrom – Fragment

4 out of 5

Label: Central Processing Unit

Produced by: Joan-Mael Péneau

Maelstrom – Joan-Mael Péneau – returns to CPU with ‘Fragment,’ another AFX-adjacent slice of amped up acid and electro that, perhaps as suggested by its title track’s name, is a more focused, slightly harsher affair than last year’s Alph4. While still mining a familiar range of beat-pitches and sounds, Fragment ups the ante somewhat, clamping down on the atmosphere and making things a bit chillier – a bit less dancefloor. The shift is a positive one, though, as it encourages a wicked sense of control, of push and pull, encouraging tracks to blossom in surprising and subtle ways. ‘Fragment’ itself, for instance, remains clipped with its beat, but then starts manipulating layers up and down for a climactic moment which is sort of the inverse of where the track starts. ‘The Scope’ is a bit more frantic, but this is blanketed by a slick layer of futurism; an intriguing combo. Over on the B-side, Ussidd gets a bit funkier, a bit more acid-y, but it’s closer ‘Utility Shift’ that really makes a mark: this is the only track that feels like it fully establishes its own identity and allows Péneau to take off the leash, growing and pushing the track to new, exciting heights throughout with a killer sense of urgency.

The general focus throughout Fragment doesn’t at all distill Maelstrom’s creativity and ability to throw down instantly catchy beats, keeping the energy alive across its four tracks, if maybe still holding back slightly to fit within a “this sounds like…” style, excepting the off-the-rails blow out of its outstanding concluding track, ‘Utility Shift.’