Spiros Kaloumenos "Zero Point" (Planet Rhythm)
Last time we mentioned Spiros Kaloumenos, we made a weak joke about Classics, compared him with both the Garlands and Franz Carr, defended Otto Rehhagel's World Cup tactics against Argentina and only in passing declared that 2010's "Keygen" was "a veritable ciabatta of wholemeal techno goodness toasted lightly with glittering synth" and adorned with "shimmering, futurist glaze". This time, we're going to try and be a bit more sensible and give a deserved shout-out to what is, improbably, a successful concept album about zero-point energy (making it a record officially inspired by Max Planck and Albert Einstein) pleasingly split over four sides of crackling *vinyl* (Y to the AY), and which probably deserves better than random comments about sprightly former Forest wingers (although while we're on the topic, does anyone else remember Heresy giving Franz a shout-out on their final Peel session ?)
After a throughly unnecessary intro on which some girl basically reads out the Wikipedia page on zero-point energy, side one blooms with two outstanding cuts, "Quantum" and "Equation" (yes, the titles all reflect aspects of zero-point theory and quantum mechanics) marking out Kaloumenos' territory: these are sassy dubtech ripplers, dripping poise and Athenian grace with every beat and for our money probably the best couple of songs here. Nevertheless, side two continues the (wholemeal) goodness by yielding "Trademark", a tight, potent composition which gradually ups the intensity, and "Ground State", a little harder and stronger again, the mid-LP lynchpin that introduces a twanging bass motif, making it feel much more musclebound than the somewhat mercurial tracks on the first side.
The second disc starts a little less convincingly, sadly: on side three Submerge and Virgil Enzinger's re-working of "Trademark" jars with the rest of the album, while "Renormalization" only really gets into its stride late on, a heady brew of energised synth and chattering percussion bubbling to the surface. It's left to the fourth side, with its warm, blurry 5 a.m. feel, to rescue proceedings, as first "Cosmology" (one of a few songs here with a subtle Latin vibe) and then the decorous "Modified Motion" seek to draw "Zero Point" to a relatively tender, restrained conclusion. Kaloumenos may have taken his time in getting around to a full-length release, and dropped his average bpm count a tad in the process (everything here is within the 126-130 mark), but this has resulted in an LP which feels mature, unrushed, focussed.
As such, while "Zero Point" is a very different beast from Deh-Noizer's "Unconscious Reactions", both records show how techno producers are starting to compose songs that take us to the places we used to be taken by the better dubstep records, perhaps heralding a shift in the centre of gravity of cutting-edge instrumental music, maybe even returning it to the dancefloor proper. Maybe, just maybe, DJs now have a real alternative to the incessant but immature energy of jump-up high jinks, or to the infinite number of brostep goons whose wares are currently being inflicted on innocent punters...