I think it's safe to say that Graham Massey's legendary status is now assured - not only was he part of crucial techno pioneers 808 State, he managed to turn his hand to countless production efforts, most notably for Bjork on `Army of Me' which to these ears still stands as one of her finest moments. A long time coming (after years of occasional live shows), this is the debut Massonix release and has been much anticipated by all those who've witnessed Massey's killer live sessions. Apparently the melodies and rhythms were dragged from recordings of these sporadic live sets and then reworked into fully realised tracks, so we end up with the perfect retrospective of ten years of Massey's most intriguing work. From the cover you've probably already worked out that the theme is somewhat sub-aquatic, and that sentiment translates more than appropriately to the Drexciyan treats on offer here. Rolling step-sequenced percussion and buzzing analogue synthesizers make up the majority of the works and bring back memories of a day when techno was anything but minimal. This is music that simply revels in its sense of melody, with hooks aplenty and emotive bass-lines guaranteed to cause havoc on the dancefloor. Just flip over to `Sargasso' with its chunky electro rhythms and wobbly synths; the track builds up menacingly before hitting you with gigantic arpeggiated bliss and descending into total abstraction. Elsewhere we have the almost Radiophonic workshop bliss of `Deep Saline Green', or the staid rhythmic warehouse vibes of `March of the Triton Titans'. The best is saved until last though, and the album finishes on two absolute stormers - the jubilant emotive electro classic `El Rey De Rey' and the 10 minute ambient epic `Pulsars'. If you fancy delving into some truly classic electronic music, from a time when electronic music didn't just mean random laptop experimentation and pointless plug-in over-use then look no further, Graham Massey is back. Highly Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
oceanic oldschool2 Mar. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
"Subtracks" took a few listens to warm up to, and I was glad to have read some reviews to mentally prepare myself for my first listen. Lately, I'm noticing a trend where innovators who took the electronic music genre far into the future, are sort of retreating back to a simpler style, using a more hand's-on approach. This was the case with the last Squarepusher, AFX and Mu-ziq full lengths, and the same is true with Massonix, who is Graham Massey of 808 State.
While 808 State always used a wide array of synths and drum machines, their production and sound got bigger, more complex and more state of the art with each release. "Subtracks" takes the classic 808 State sounds back below the surface again. I've grown to enjoy this full length greatly, but at first, some of the synths and beats came off as kind of primitive and cheezy, even. Still, there is a nice, full bass sound throughout, and a good system is highly recommended here. There are some fine, "aquatic" atmospheres going on and some bright, chirpy melodies reminiscent of early Plaid or Black Dog. Clicking, clacking and ticking drum machine rhythms and beats abound with some acid squelches thrown in for good measure. There is a playful and adventurous musicality here that only folks like Graham Massey could get from such electronic boxes and gadgetry. Check out the liner notes to see what I mean. This one might take a couple of listens to start to truly appreciate. True techno and electronic music heads should dig this if given a chance.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
ultramarine... and weird26 Mar. 2007
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
How exactly to define this perplexing record Massonix has given us from the depths of the deep blue?
Since 808 State's last album Outpost Transmission was--to the extent that it was anything at all--a strange, synthetic broadcast from somewhere in deep space, it seems only natural that Massonix, 808 frontman Graham Massey's alter ego, should embark on his first solo release with a deep-sea themed adventure.
More appropriately still, given Outpost Transmission's general bizarreness, Subtracks is like nothing of this earth. It appears to be, excluding the occasional live percussive riff or vintage Massey sax snippet, almost entirely composed of synthesizers, and not the familiar kind. For a water-themed record, the compositions are startlingly sparse and alien, not to mention utterly devoid of the organic grittiness and rhythmic energy that defined 808 recordings in the mid-90s. It isn't beat-laden enough to be techno and it isn't ambient enough to be ambient. To the extent there is any explanation at all for why this record exists or what you should do with it, it can be found in the amusing journal entries from Massonix's underwater adventures, one of which accompanies each track on the record. Parts of it--particularly the parts with liberal use of synth steel drums--are very Outpost reminiscent. (See track 11, the Subatlantian, which sounds like a downright Outpost outtake.) Other parts sound like Newbuild on Pro Tools: delightfully dated synths minus the lo-fi charm. Somehow it all holds together and has a sense of electro-humor about itself.
Subtracks is far more accessible than it should be--credit that to to the ever-talented Massey--and it's delightfully weird, but except for 808 diehards I'm not sure how well it will fly with the average listener. This album is likable but doesn't leap into your heart the way Don Solaris, Ex:El, 90 or Newbuild did.