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Artist: TM404

Album: TM404

Label: Kontra-Musik

Review date: Feb. 1, 2013

TM404 - "202/303/303/303/808"

I’ll admit some trepidation upon hearing that the new album from Andreas Tilliander consisted of live-in-studio, overdub- and edit-free experiments with an array of classic Roland synthesizers. The underground’s recent love of all things vintage has in itself become a rather sepia-toned trend. Add to that the fact that a musician’s home-taped experiments rarely are as enjoyable to spin as they must have been to make and a recipe for disaster was feared.

Tilliander, however, has a history of proving himself to be more than your run-of-the-mill knob-twiddler. Under a number of guises, the Swedish producer is responsible for some of the last decade’s freshest sounds — in particular, Persona, his psychedelia-obsessed 2009 album as Mokira, is a classic of rain-streaked ambiance and icy dub.

The Stockholm resident’s latest alter-ego is TM404. The project name is sourced from the one numerical sequence Roland skipped while producing its models 101-909. (The 404 name was cut from production as “四,” the Japanese word for “four,” is pronounced similarly to “死,” or “death.”) In creating tracks for the album, Tilliander assembled his Roland collection and started pushing their buttons. Track names follow a dry, literal pattern showcasing which electronics were used. Yet, fortunately the sounds contained within are far from sterile.

While the instrumentation may be simple, the music Tilliander coaxes from his machines is impressively massive. Tracks shift with the tectonic force of Rhythm & Sound’s most cracked electro-dub experiments. Low end is the focus, with cavernous bass tugging against minimalistic melodic overtones. “303/303/303/606” begins with ominous crackles and fist-like drum punches panning across the stereo spectrum. The track works its way into a lurching, molasses-soaked skank before crumbling away as claps of bass dissipate in the air. “303/303/303/303/707/808” features a license plate-cracking beat that congeals into a sort of mucky acid house — imagine spelunking below a slow-motion rave. The album ender, with its quartet of 303s, is the only time Tilliander strips the instrumentation down to a single piece of machinery. It also acts as a cocoon-like comedown, where solitary notes ring softly under a sheen of mechanical dust.

Upon spending time with TM404, initial hesitations are replaced with a new fear: that, what with its cryptic title and release on Tilliander’s small Kontra-Musik imprint, this monumental record will be missed. You’ve been tipped — now listen up.

By Ethan Covey

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