Frivolous: Meteorology

By , Mar 3 2011

Available on: Cadenza LP

It’s not often that one happens upon a techno break-up album, let alone one apparently borne out of its producer’s girlfriend dumping him via email the day before she was to join him for a new life on a remote Pacific island. Meteorology – the third album from Vancouver’s Daniel Gardner, aka Frivolous – comes off as a psychologically convincing reflection of his state of mind – but not by cleaving to expectations of bleakness (or, worse, plaintive James Blake-style mopery).

It’s melancholy in places, as you’d expect, but it’s also curiously playful. It’s one of the most inventive techno releases you’ll hear this year, with most tracks full of unexpected twists and tangents, but what sticks out is the sense of wonderment with which Gardner pulls his disparate palette of sounds together. Rolling drum cascades, distant opera phantoms, seagulls keening, chiming melodies entering out of nowhere and exiting just as discreetly: you can take nothing for granted at any stage. The range of sonic ground covered is reminiscent of the much-hyped Nicolas Jaar – indeed, Meteorology is perfect for those taken with Jaar’s aesthetic but wishing for something a touch more dancefloor-friendly than his own recent debut album.

Lurking in between the danceability and the sense of humour, underneath the louche swing to the treated vocals of ‘Back Into The Deep’ and ‘Red Tide’, though, is both estrangement and derangement. A sense of isolation pervades Meteorology, as though Gardner’s spent a bit too long with only himself for company; a beachcomber entertaining himself with washed-up detritus and found sounds. Percussion clatters and clanks behind the tracks’ grooves, constantly threatening derailment. Melodies oscillate wildly, jauntily and with more than a touch of madness to them. ‘Serenade des excentriques’ takes seduction through the looking glass; cobwebs of traditional folk instruments crawl over ‘Back Into The Deep’. Meanwhile, on ‘Ostalgia’ – the album’s terrifying highlight – Gardner interpolates a Russian waltz (Alexandr Griboyedov’s Waltz in E minor) with demented, monomaniacal glee. The image that his music frequently evokes is that of abandoned Soviet fairgrounds: Meteorology is an album heavy on fear and grotesquerie, but with an irresistible romantic allure too.

Alex Macpherson

3.5
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