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"The Language Game" (Tomlab)

InkblotHailing from Austin, Texas, and recording under the name Inkblot, Jeremy Ballard has created an impressive debut cd of melodic electronics for the German label Tomlab. Combining hints of guitar with jerky rhythms and burping synths, the accessible sound of "The Language Game" is somewhat understated, but no less enjoyable.

In the same way that To Rococo Rot have a very uncomplicated approach to layered, sound sculpture, Inkblot has a similar and somewhat restrained approach to melodic construction, paying considerable attention to the sounds that begin each song, and building upon the resultant moods. For instance, the fourth track, "I Thought I Was Something Else" begins with a pulsation of sorts, that underscores the plucked-guitar melodies and rhythms that spring forth from it, providing a constant reference point of mood throughout the track. The overall effect is one of methodic restraint in the presentation of ideas, and the importance of each underlying sound.

This is a good approach for a debut artist to take, however, once I get to the seventh track, "Mono No Aware," I'm ready for him to let loose a bit. A funky little rhythm gives way to rhythmic synth stabs and flourishes of melodic tinklings that are only broken down once, and ultimately led astray by another synth line or two that leads the song off into desert sunset. It works perfectly, but it is the one instance where i wish the melodies would break free from its foundation and elevate the mood even more. It has hit single written all over it, basically, and perhaps I'm looking for an extended remix.

He does succeed in expanding his expression on songs that have very little rhythm or construction, such as "Even Now With These Robot Arms" and "Greyscaled." When the foundation is brushed aside, Ballard's guitar provides a warmth and looseness that effectively matches the underlying algorithmic synth sounds. With "The Language Game," Jeremy Ballard strikes a nice balance of introspection and melodic expression, and while it may not rise above the mood it steadfastly adhears to throughout the disc, the sounds are sublime, and songs like "And Here We Are" and "Mono No Aware" are indications that Inkblot is an electronic artist with a good ear for a good tune.

- SK

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