The music of Bristol’s A Sagittariun might evoke misty-eyed memories of the early ’90s UK dance scene, if you were there. And if you weren’t, then its relation to the era’s prime ambient and techno cuts, to monumental records by Aphex Twin, LFO or The Orb will make you wish you had been. But for all their rave era signifiers and sonic intertextuality, the way this mysterious artist’s tracks most relate to that epoch is in their non-conformity. A Sagittariun wishes to remain anonymous, wanting his tracks to speak for themselves. That’s a common thread in dance culture. But unlike the vast majority of his peers, this producer treats tempos playfully and genre borders with the disdain they deserve, including within his excellent releases counter-cultural messages and allusions to a rejection of the mainstream.
So it is with his new, second album Elasticity, the follow-up to 2013’s trippy Dream Ritual. That record arrived at a time when ambient was anathema and few thought that harking back to Warp’s Artificial Intelligence compilation series was a viable idea. But A Sagittariun’s music arrived unencumbered by association, advancing head-trip electronics, downtempo breakbeats and swirling atmospherics in a decidedly new skin. Like his earlier EPs, Born Under 22 Stars or Carina, Dream Ritual was a reminder of how extraordinary the early ’90s were for music, a time before dance music had been completely co-opted by the mainstream and turned into a megabucks international industry. A sense of innocence and hope pervaded Dream Ritual, and seemed to capture the zeitgeist—the desire by some to break away from the monotony of functional club fodder and strive towards something more fulfilling.
Since then things have changed. Newer records by Bicep or Answer Code Request, to name just two, relate to the musical freedom of this era, unafraid to break with the tyranny of 4/4. Elasticity arrives at a time when heads are far more receptive to broken beats and deeper realms of sound. Opening with the crisp breaks, sub acid tones and dubwise melodies of "Apokalypsis," an air of Sheffield bleep drifts into earshot, the ghosts of Sweet Exorcist or early Nightmares on Wax invoked.
"Architect of Your Existence" is full of mystic atmosphere, but is also ripe with joyous, scything saw synths, an incantatory ambient house piece, crisp with crackling effects and distorted crunch. "Blim Burn" is a sinuous, twisting diversion into the clubbier flavour of A Sagittariun’s recent techno 12"s, breakbeat percussion and psychotropic synths key ingredients of his sound. "Chapter & Verse" is a technoid jungle piece, its polyrhythmic tricknology dipped in metallic effects, evoking an otherworldly rainforest at night. The sample from David Cronenberg’s creepy film "Videodrome" at the start further draws us in.
"Composition" is the album’s centerpiece, its gradual build and mournful, strange electro melody reminiscent of Autechre’s Incunabula, but invested with A Sagittariun’s now-distinctive sonic stamp. It’s a haunting work and difficult to dislodge. What’s most striking about the record is the producer’s singular sound. Though it’s easy to compare his music to the ambient and electronica progenitors, Elasticity is very much the product of now—from the depth of production to the modern palette deployed.
The closing series of Transmissions—with their cryptic and not-so-cryptic messages, sampled from counter-cultural figures, each to an ambient backdrop—is vital to understand where A Sagittariun is really at. Embracing ideas outside the norm, and inviting his listeners to do the same, marks him out as different. And when the music is as special, memorable, vital as this, hopefully it will have the desired effect.
01. Architect Of Your Existence
02. Blim Burn
03. Transmission From Jesse
06. Transmission From Terrence
07. The Naming Of The Names
08. Chapter & Verse
11. Transmission From Alan
13. Resurrection Of A Memory
14. Transmission From Robert
15. Black Starliner
16. Transmission From Myrtle Avenue
Elastic Dreams will release Elasticity on April 23, 2016.