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"Cinemascope" (ml/i)

"Cinemascope" is the fourth full-length release by the Berlin-based artist Monolake, a.k.a. Robert Henke. I first heard Monolake in 1998, remixing his Chain Reaction label-mate Various Artists, providing a most expansive, beatless remix. His original, signature Monolake sound was a beatless landscape that evolved from deep chords and overwhelmed the listener in blankets of sound. Over time however, his sound has progressed into something that is equally as dark, but lighter in mood and much more rhythmically based than past endeavors. His last full-length, "Gravity," pushed his sound into the groove-zone, providing a funky thump to his deep, dark soundtrack. With "Cinemascope," Robert Henke continues to keep the beat, but allows the rhythms to blend into the mix a bit more, and the result is perhaps the most accessible Monolake release to date.

Described as a cinematic homage to the city environment, this new Monolake full-length comes packaged with two nightime images of an illuminated traffic junction in Shanghai. So, immediately, before even listening to "Cinemascope," it's apparent that Robert Henke has altered his sound to fit a less expansive landscape. The first number, "Bicom," establishes the general mood of the disc with a slow rhythm, incorporating computer-generated vocal sounds that alternately breathe and communicate with each other, as icy synth stabs skank along to the beat and deep tones glide by in stereo. This propensity to use cut-up computer voices resurfaces again on the disc's spookiest number, "Alpenrausch". The darkness of mood matches the disembodied voices to great effect, but again, the rhythm is the glue that holds everything together.

Another unique feature employed to great effect on "Cinemascope," are the sounds of dripping, rhythmic water-droplets. As if Robert Henke has decided to finally melt some of the ice surrounding his music to comply with a more inhabitable environment, tracks like "Television Tower" and "Indigo" are highlighted with small streams of tonal sequences and rivulets of rhythms that give the Monolake sound some texture. On "Indigo" especially, the echoing drips give this calm finale a nice touch of depth.

"Cinemascope" finds Robert Henke breaking out of his previous sonic territories of expansive, ambient architecture, and proceeds to expand upon his rhythmic tendencies in ways that have created a soundtrack that is both otherworldly atmospheric and recognizably emotive and musical.

- SK

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