Roel Funcken – Sapper Morton EP

5 out of 5

Label: Analogical Force

Produced by: Roel Funcken, James Shinra (track 5)

Yes, well, again going for the easy comment (and likely unoriginal even beyond my own reviews): that my pronunciation of Roel Funcken’s last name as “funk” is very fitting, the artist’s debut on Analogical Force – after years of EPs and releases since 2010 – is an incredibly impressive drop in AF’s early catalogue, helping to show off the non-Rephlex knock-offs that certainly exist out there in the IDM world. That’s a backhanded compliment, but the label unfortunately garnered something of an early reputation for – besides some highlights – Aphex et al. soundalikes, and while that “reputation” is maybe limited to just a couple of boards within my reading sphere, it made enough of an impact that any artist not already on my radar got a a skeptical first listen.

But not only did Funcken’s second Analogical release impress me, it did so to the extent that I went and started checking out the artist’s other stuff; thus I should not be surprised at how good Sapper Morton is… but I am surprised at how goddamn good it is, surpassing even my expectations. This is the slickest and most gorgeous of electro, unshowy but dense, glittering with a precise balance of groove and club moments – wavering between a more chill and “pretty” IDM, and the kind of glitchy and slippy stuff that more normally equates to the tag. Funcken’s skill, though, is in never nibbing exactly from a particular artist or style: his music is very accessible for a surface listen, but has so much careful snippets of things snaking in and out that it’s a joy to listen to whether over speakers – absorbing the beat – or headphones, so as to dig into the details.

The opening title track definitely sets the stage here, its Blade Runner reference a good touchpoint in terms of mood, though not era – this isn’t futurism or a throwback track: Funcken works very much in the modern, and here captures a slick futuristic vibe that’s got an organic underbelly. The next couple of tracks pair this with more defined moods: Lewton is upbeat; Borgon Cray more laser-like and robotic. Cray was, on my first listen, a slight misstep – it’s much more pared down than the rest of the album, repeating a synth line against a simple beat, but it ultimately functions perfectly in the middle of the EP, backed up by the thick and fun Danzar Arturion, and James Shinra’s banging mix of the title track, which can be listened to back-to-back with the original as proof of how a base theme can be twisted to very different moods and purposes.