The world is increasing crowded with mid-tempoed
electronica bands that use the lush, rich sound of analog keyboards.
I still think of this genre as being derived from Boards
of Canada, but there are numerous artists that do this style
rather well, including Casino
vs. Japan, Miles Tilmann,
FourTet, and, now, n.ln.
n.ln is the project of Niles Lannon, who was one of the guitarists
in drone rock masters The Azusa Plane, and has also been in
a bunch of other projects i haven't heard of (Film School, Reizoko,
and Splendorbin). This is an interesting history, and one can
see a logical progression from the spaced out drones of The
Azusa Plane to the Orb
and Boards of Canada-damaged ambient
groove of Astronomy for Children. This music is
the psychedelic rock of the post-Kraftwerk world. It is to rave
kids what Pink Floyd was to rockers.
And, i must admit, n.ln does a fine job with it. If you have enjoyed the artists
listed above, then this is a great purchase. Although the bulk
of the music lies along the same general vibe and feel as those
artists, the differences are what make it stand out. Specifically,
i like Lannon's drum loop work and his use of vocal samples.
Of course, both are used by numerous acts, but n.ln's take on
things is a little special, and that makes all the difference.
The vocal samples are not just computer mangled noises that
fade in and out. Instead, he often uses actually lengthy vocal
samples buried in the mix. That's so old school. Remember back
when The Orb would do that in
the mid 90's? They would play their electronica over an extended
vocal track that you often couldn't hear completely, but you
were aware that it was there. I always thought that was a good
effect, but it has lost popularity of late. However, n.ln uses
such a technique on tunes such as Left Bubbles and 4
Little Fires. The vocal sample seems really Orb-like
on That Spun My Head, which ends with a low, burbling
male vocal loop that really reminds me of the russian samples
As to drum loops, well, the trend in rhythm these days tends
towards staticky, heavily computer manipulated beats. Often,
you can't even tell what the original drum hit might have sounded
like, and often there isn't the sort of continuity to the rhythm
that an actual drum kit provides. Well, n.ln uses actual drum
loops! It sounds like he actually played a record, recorded
a bit of drumming, and then layered it under his songs. (How
old school, i love it!) The drum loops really work for me, adding
a bit of crunchy rhythm in just the right places. In particular
the loops on That Spun My Head and Spoke Words
catch my attention.
Spoke Words is actually such a great song that it deserves
it's own paragraph! It over 7 minutes long, and features lush
keys, a great catchy drum loop, and weird R2D2 type noises creating
a sort of melody/vocal bit. It's catchy and fun, and i really
like it. It is definitely the standout on this album.
Overall, i am impressed with Astronomy For Children. Lannon has created a worthwhile album that is modern in tone, but references enough of the electronica past to show that he knows his stuff. As far as laptoptronica goes, this is pretty nice. If you are a fan of the genre, then this is a fine album to purchase.