Kangding Ray - Hyper Opal Mantis
Reviewing a new album from the man who produced the classic that I now measure all other Techno albums against presents a challenging scenario. Seriously, who can argue that Solens Arc is not the greatest Techno album ever made? It's the perfect synthesis of Ambient and Techno, the core components of all decent Techno these days. By comparison his last one, Cory Arcane, fell short of this standard, the concept behind the music, so tightly woven into the album's fabric, ultimately stole the limelight (and the general lack of tunes didn't help either). On Hyper Opal Mantis the Frenchman is back on track — the conceptual angle remains intact but it's easier to ignore.
Like Julian Cope on Jehovakill, Kangding Ray has split the tracks into phases, each one representing a different state of desire.
Phase 1: Hyper
Phase 2: Opal
Phase 3: Mantis
And like the hirsute old rocker's album, the result is pointless. I'm not against Techno concept albums, Roly Porter and Scuba Death proved it can work. I just prefer to listen to the music without thinking about real life subjects like politics, society, gender issues, social media, the future, whatever. The music is an escape after all. And only when I have my head in the sand, my dreamy harbour, can I withdraw to contemplate the electrifying Techno on hand.
And electricity is the byword here - this throbbing, bass-heavy sound, omnipresent in his recent productions, is like the pulse of a pylon hooked up to your neural grid. First spotted on Solens Arc (check Evento), developed further on Cory Arcane (Safran and These Are My Rivers) and now, perfected on this his sixth album, it's a fully realised motif best demonstrated on the monumental opening track Rubi, which thumps along like the theme tune to some futuristic, off-the-scale-speed transport system, public information broadcast — a motif echoed throughout the album on tracks like Epsilon, Soul Surfing and Onde Mantis. Inbetween these imperious power surges there's the satisfying hum of a circuit that's operating at optimum levels with no shortage of melody in the shape of tracks like Lone Pyramids, Dune and Laniakea. Best moment has to be Purple Phase with its delicious throbbing bass and catchy scalar melody.
8/10 after 18 listens
Out now on Stroboscopic Artefacts.