Friday, August 12, 2011
I first discovered the music of Sen AKA UK based John Shern through myspace about five years ago, I think it was the image from the seminal George Lucas classic THX1138 that attracted me to his music, images aside I was instantly drawn by its minimal yet deep and soulful sounds a perfect balance of ambient drones, stark techno grooves and a healthy helping of human emotion, futuristic yet familiar.
So I have been eagerly awaiting Sen's Debut album since my first encounter with his deep vibes and this year the wait is over as "Sensory Emotive Network" gets a CD and digital release through Cold tear recordings.
The album opens with the Deep droning atmospherics and rain recordings of "Soul Rain" subtle sinister strings appear creating a sense of uncertainty, slightly reminiscent of the haunting work of Mark Isham's classic "The Hitcher" soundtrack.
Next we have "Skychords" full of shifting swirling atmospherics and a deliciously treated bluesy guitar refrain, the addition of a subtle downtempo 909 drum sequence and a deep bass growl with tastefully placed ethnic percussion keeps the track evolving nicely, resulting in a hypnotic yet deeply thought provoking mantra.
"We Now Understand" even though its clocking in at over 14 minutes, the track never becomes tiring, from the start a creepy storm like wave of sound emits while an ominous low end rumbles in the distance, slowly a deep house groove creeps in, the atmospherics shift around in a sinister manner creating one moody experimental dancefloor epic.
"These Moments" changes the tone somewhat as a rather emotive yet heart warming chord structure compliments a highly reverberated and distorted techno groove, the clever use of soaring high strings adds further emotion.
The Sci-fi influence of Sen seem rather evident on "Rebound" as haunting atmospheric tones and what sounds like distant ringing church bell makes this sound like an alternative soundtrack to "Bladerunner" a deeply delayed groove is introduced a voice pad rises in the mix creating a further intensity. Think Rod Modell meets Vangelis and you are only halfway there.
"Never before again" takes on a Melancholic yet optimistic journey as a simple key refrain riding on top of some lush electronics grooves along with some subtly flanged and filtered drums, rising and falling hats keep the percussion interesting and a humming low bass line keeps it in the tradition of the classic dub techno sound.
then we have "Within Reach" possibly the standout track on the album? It starts of with a slightly sombre tone, then a really beautiful change is introduced halfway through which is a welcome surprise and gives you a feeling that anything is possible. Uplifting and beautiful and perfectly placed on the album.
"Scuba drift" takes you to the deepest depths of your imagination with its dreamy floating modulated synths and sub-aquatic rhythms.
The album closes off beautifully with "Jem" a rather ethereal mix of pads and dreamy vocal refrains.
"Sensory Emotive Network" is truly a stunning debut long player and an album which has all the hallmarks of a future classic. While some of this album can be placed in the dub techno genre, it would be unfair to simply catergorise it all this way, John has taken the blueprint of dub techno and created something deeper and more expressive which may make some of the big guns in the scene re think their game.
Highly highly recommended.
By the CD direct from coldtear