Available on: NonPlus+ LP
Instra:mental’s output tends to be described as a combination of multiple electronic musics, and Resolution 653 is certainly evidence of this. By giving equal weight to all of their influences without any trace of desperation or cynicism it is an album that feels successfully like “an album”, rather than a collection of tracks with the same underlying theme and lots of variations. Sonically, however, the record is coloured throughout by late ’90s/early ’00s electro production values and instrumentation, and probably owes more than anything to this particular period of dance music.
It makes for some interesting results. The popularity of recent single ‘Thomp’ can probably be put down to its equal balance between a currently-topical ghettotech allusion and an overtly tough, metallic electro palette that others are not exploring. ‘Rift Zone’ has a 140 bpm beat similar in style to Rustie, but features a melody made of grim parallel discords more likely to be found on a Skam release. ‘8’ is straight-up electro in its hi-hats and recited numbers, but a growling, bouncing maximal house rhythm and bassline reminiscent of Audion underpins it.
Despite a reputation for coldness, Instra:mental also do warmth very well. ‘Waterfalls’ is arguably the best track on the album, hypnotic in its constantly swirling pads, washed out vocalisations and a floating, swung rhythm section possessing a pattern of accents vaguely reminiscent of dancehall. Elsewhere, Sun Rec uses a lush cloud of delays on its four-note motif, ‘Love Arp’ manages to resurrect the sound palette of Brothomstates in its intertwining, synth-plucked arpeggios, and ‘Talkin Mono’ uses the kind of organ-like square waves favoured by the newer ‘neon synths’ generation for its sweet harmonies.
Arguably the most interesting aspect of Resolution 653 is that, by successfully melding influences, it reaffirms the shared core elements of what defines dance music. Switch, for instance, the buzzy post-acid bass of ‘Plok’ to congas, its clicky beat to a latin percussion kit and its plink-plunky harmonies to 8 bit bleeps and you would have a (somewhat cynical) “UK bass music” hit. This flexibility is evident in layers throughout the record, and shows a genuine natural ability to blur common boundaries effectively, while also maintaining a focus on their own passions
What threatens to undo this, however, is that Resolution 653 is constructed almost exclusively from a palette of synthesizer voices and samples that were a recognisable trend a decade ago. As such, this gives the record a throwback quality that is probably unintentional. However, ultimately this is undeniably a solidly crafted album within this style, while also taking on board developments since the original era. If this sounds good to you, buy it, as it is very unlikely you will be disappointed.