The Cyclist Bones in Motion
Although the so-called beat scene has been aligned with a renaissance of trippy hip-hop instrumentals in the wake of J Dilla and Flying Lotus, it has also provided fertile soil for experimentation beyond the various permutations of syncopated boom-baps. In recent years, the seminal Stones Throw label has expanded its catalog to include forays into psychedelic rock, minimal wave, and beyond, while Matthewdavid's always adventurous Leaving Records has broadened its horizons with a handful of ambient and jazz-influenced releases. Earlier this year, the two Southern California outposts announced a distribution partnership and unveiled Dual Form, a mixed cassette composed to introduce their joint—and very eclectic—line-up. The compilation's most alluring offer came from The Cyclist (a.k.a. Andrew Morrison), a producer from Northern Ireland who is now at the helm of the first full-length solo effort for the labels' collaborative discography.
The LP, a 15-track effort titled Bones in Motion, is certainly a far cry from hip-hop. Instead, it finds Morrison blending the warm, lackadaisical, and low-fidelity charm of past releases from Leaving Records with the momentum of muddied techno and the grating edge of noise. "Visions" was the first taste from the album; it caught our attention on Dual Form and then reappeared with an abstract video accompaniment. The track's four-on-the-floor kick forcefully propels things forward, but the murky synth pads and pervasive analog crackle—an element which persists throughout the album—root "Visions" firmly in Leaving's tradition of celebrating delightfully fuzzy rhythms.
About half the LP is bathed in a similarly bleary, blithe energy; "Sheen" and "Makeshift" particularly stand out, strapping blurry synth pads and whirling melodies to sturdy beats. But the seventh track on Bones in Motion, "The March," marks a shift into more distorted and darker sounds. Instead of delicate, flowing layers of sparkling sonics, the song's blunted clomp of a beat is embellished with a racket of hissing noise, blaring low end, and extended notes that ring like tinnitus. With the exception of closing track "Sleeping," the songs in the album's latter half are more nightmarish than dreamy. "Black Train" rolls out gritty synths that ring out like funeral tolls over the indistinct stomp of a kick drum, while "Reels" works a ragged, anthemic guitar riff into a grimy, slow-burning rhythm.
The brooding tunes on Bones in Motion—"Reels" in particular—have the potential to make interesting warehouse techno tracks, but the heavy distortion renders the beat too muddled to create a powerful rhythm. Nevertheless, The Cyclist seems more interested in creating intriguing songs than effective dancefloor weapons, and on that front, he succeeds. "Bones in Motion," one of the album's brighter and livelier cuts, wanders aimlessly through periods of swirling synths and sections of cramped arpeggiated bass. It's a lengthy track—over seven minutes—but its inviting beauty never fades.
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