It’s easy to get caught up in surface-level sonic aesthetics and miss deeper affinities among techno producers. Boris Bunnik’s latest release as Conforce draws an awesome strength from techno’s convoluted histories and tangents, yet is immediately captivating enough to foreclose any hope of figuring out references or pinning down echoes during its running time. Escapism’s brightly lit and cleanly textured tracks stand in contrast to the vogue for all things grainy and spooky. The vantage point he offers the listener is a godlike one, and necessarily so since this is a meticulously detailed collection. But the distance doesn’t diminish the fact that he’s created a deeply engrossing experience, within and across the album’s 10 tracks.
At 3:45, “Timelapse” is Escapism‘s briefest offering, but it embodies the project’s unhurried charm in miniature. Sandwiched between two more active and much longer tracks, “Shadows of the Invisible” and “Within,” it clears its throat with alternating blocks of icy ambience before introducing a bleary drum-machine pattern that’s arranged with a combo of swing and inflexibility that recalls Shed. In the grand scheme, it’s an interlude between more dominating tracks, but it embodies the light touch that guides Escapism’s more intense moments, as well. The overall mood is aquatic, but only in the Drexciyan way on the title track, whose pounding electro rhythm is married to smooth bass bubbles and a sonar melody that are more Conforce’s own.
Things get dense on “Within,” but its weaponized drum machine programming is offset by unresolved, glowing but prickly synth pads. Airy, yet encompassing more than a little unease, these sounds are far from optimistic but not quite dystopian. They just flutter around the rhythmic through line, temporarily describing the sonic horizon. That kind of elegantly measured wariness is Conforce’s tonal center for the duration of Escapism, but it’s not an uncomfortable place to be. It’s as if, in casting into the future while being pulled in by the past’s gravity, he ends up in a slightly tweaked version of the present, a state of hypervigilance. This isn’t a sonically raw album, but it’s psychically intense even in the absence of the usual signifiers of decay and dissolution.