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Sustainer - Cuántico

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Artist: Sustainer

Album: Cuántico

Label: Italic

Review date: Jun. 19, 2003

Alex Alarcón, the 28-year-old Spaniard who records under the moniker Sustainer, deems his debut album Cuántico a “new Spanish Modernism”. While a comparison between his Basic Channel techno and the revolutionary brilliance of Picasso and Falla sounds facetious at best, Alarcón’s penchant for historical reference is not completely out of place.

As Falla and Picasso gained crucial perspective on their trips to Paris in the early 1900’s, Alarcón ventures far beyond the borders of Barcelona to create his Cuántico sound. Berlin’s signature dub sound is quietly rampant throughout these eight songs, as is the synthesized pop of ’80s Italo Disco, although thankfully not to the same degree. When combined with a distinct nightclub aesthetic, the sound teeters between mindless accessibility and cultural innuendo, a formula that successfully circumvents any potential alienating extremes like pop or pedantry.

“Cuántico” (Spanish for “quantum”) is an interesting title for a project that blurs the line between distinguishable electronic locales. In physics, a quantum represents the tiniest bits of matter than can exist independently, or that can be distinguished as independent units. Alarcón’s philosophy would at first seem to rebel against such a theory, that one can dissect a particular sound into discernible genres or nationalities. Yet, upon further thought, perhaps he’s merely recognizing the Lego-like construction of electronica, and on a grander scale, digital music in general. While the seductive ambiguity of Cuántico resonates with international intrigue, Alarcón’s title of choice acknowledges the fundamental base from which it came. This subtle nod towards microscopic building-blocks interestingly enough buts heads with Basic Channel’s smoke and mirror celebration of wax – perhaps a deliberate shift to differentiate this modern sound from its archeological influences.

Each song on Cuántico is represented by a geometrical sculpture in the album’s sleeve notes. Again, the Spanish modernism movement is referenced through an overt cubist bent. The affiliation between Alarcón’s sounds and objects is enticing, almost like an invite to study the accompanying art while listening to the album. The songs themselves support the idea of art appreciation – Alarcón develops a stabilizing foundation for each track and then subtly adjusts dynamics, timbre and sequencing as if recreating the contours of sculpture and their multiple viewpoints. At first, these songs can seem monotonous in rhythm and sound, but the pernickety electro glides and propulsive bass slowly reveal an arrhythmia of texture and perspective.

“Dinámica” delves deepest into the dub, balancing a heady bassline with metronomic accompaniment. Synths fade and disappear into ether while the two extremes jog in place. Cuántico’s on Italic starts to make more sense on “Múltiplo”, an uptempo number with enough 4/4 sensibility to induce a few wiggles here and there – a worthy opener for Antonelli Electr.. “Sólido” shifts dramatically to Rhythm & Sound territory abstraction at first, but eventually blooms into a grayscale kaleidoscope of micro-haus regalia.

Alarcón is pleasantly adept in the construction of atmosphere on his debut album – now he can start concentrating on color. Like the graphite tincture of his two-dimensional sleeve note sculptures, his minimalist compositions sometimes lack the personality of an Antonelli Electr. or Vladislav Delay track (although, how many contemporary electronica artists could claim their equals?) Cuántico may not be a quantum leap ahead of the competition, but it’s certainly deserved of note, both for its accomplishments and its aspirations.

By Otis Hart

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