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Applescal – Dreaming in Key (Atomnation)

Just as winter turned its own dial to ‘bleak, beyond forgiveness,’ other people’s enthusiasm for the ‘festive season’ made the absence of my own so painfully apparent that I had taken to scowling in an accusatory manner at the faux Christmas tree that was gleefully twinkling in the living room. At that moment, Applescal’s Dreaming In Key appeared in my life.

Breezing along, like the ghost of summers past, fate brought Dreaming In Key to my attention. Tired of the year 2012 and all that it had offered me, most emails were getting ignored; the thought of acquainting myself with new music was as wearisome as the thought of acquainting myself with new humans. Somehow, in between repeat listens of my December comfort blanket, Twin Shadow’s Confess, Applescal got a test run in the headphones. Lucky chap. Lucky me.

Applescal is the nom de plume of a 20-something Netherlander, with three albums already under his belt. He’s one of the folk behind the dauntingly labyrinthine www.rtfkt.net and also hides / shines behind the name ‘Yoshiba ’87. Dreaming In Key most probably falls under the blanket banner of IDM, though the ‘D,’ I’d take issue with. Sure, we’re hovering between emotive electronica and the kind of techno you can happily socialise / get fucked to. Scientifically speaking it is entirely possible to dance to most of Dreaming In Key. There’s a serious air of introspection running through it though; I suspect any attempts to get rhythmic with much of this material would result in some kind of public breakdown. Throw a room full of people and all of the atmosphere that brings into the mix and you’ve a cauldron full of dangerous emoting going on right there.

These are synthetic sounds, made flesh, feelings, digitised and synced up. Convincing enough to make you believe that Applescal may have happened upon an exacting recipe for joyousness right here. Album opener ‘Boys’ (featuring David Douglas) is rife with reassuring snatches of a female voice, humming, muttering, like semi-conscious pillow talk; tapped into the exact sound required to lift a spirit and cleanse a tired mind. Arpeggiated synths peak and then are slowly dulled as the pillow talk ceases in an anti-climactic tease.

Joyousness merges into euphoria on ’With the Sea,’ a tune so quietly positive, it serves as the equivalent of five intense and inexpensive minutes in a therapist’s chair. Excitement at the possibilities of sound translates to excitement at the possibilities of life. By the sixth track, ‘Thanks for Fun’ though, the album starts to lull. The whole track sounds like a goodbye, like a bookend to the fun that’s gone before. If it were, it would be perfect. As a mid-way point, it dips too low, too far into goodbye and the momentum’s nearly lost.

That momentum restarts in earnest, though, with ‘Wise Noise On Time’ (feat. Lanny May), which alternates mechanical techno crunches with key lines born to soundtrack heightened anticipation. Transporting you to a dark and sweaty enclave in your mind, it’s one of the broodier tracks on album otherwise imbued with a lightness and near-euphoria. Ill-timed for grey skies, Dreaming In Key: Digitised Prozac for the festivally-challenged.

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