The first thing that’s immediately noticeable when listening to Hinterland is the complete absence of the Roland TB 303. For an artist who is so heavily associated with Acid House (so much so that his first LP was titled On Acid) this is somewhat surprising. Yet just as Recondite’s previous output was about challenging conventions by presenting a lusher more considered take on Acid House so too does Hinterland carry on the tradition of subverting the listener’s expectations. It’s no wonder then that Recondite decided to release his second album on Ghostly International.
While still explicitly a House album the Acid has been traded for warm ambient synths that are consistently pretty throughout. Using the term pretty may seem derogatory – that in some way prettiness is lacking substance or soul, but this is not the case. There’s a genuine sense of longing and uncertainty on every track which gives the album an effective and cohesive feel. This does come at the cost of making the album less dance-floor friendly to all but bravest of DJ’s but that’s a sacrifice I’m happy has been made. There is unfortunately little sonic variation throughout the tracks, I’d often not realise one track had progressed to the next, although this does add to the albums tightness as a body of work. On Acid suffered from great but unrelated divergences into other producers remixes.
It’s not just in the synth selection that has been dramatically changed though. The drum programing is intricate and complex and differs to previous output. It’s very impressive and works well to offset the understated melodies. I’m reminded of golden era Aphex Twin. The album very much retains the sense of melancholic longing that makes Recondite’s work such a unique pleasure to listen to. The standout track has to be Abscondence with its catchy melody and jingly chimes that would make Pantha Du Prince envious. Tracks like Stems stick out a little with the 4/4 thud being the most prominent aspect of the song, although this is immediately countered by the ambient interlude of Floe. The recent trend of electronic musicians shoe-horning in beat-less tracks is becoming fairly stale but Recondite here makes it seem highly appropriate.
The aesthetic consideration put into Hinterland extends beyond the audio. While a little saccharine, those who value sentimentality will enjoy the opener being titled Rise and the closer predictably being titled The Fade. This sentimentally bleeds into the cover features monochrome long shot of mountainous woods with matches the tone set by the music well. It’s a unique juxtaposition to the, also monochrome, extreme close-up of the dead grass from On Acid that could easily have been taken at the bottom of one of those mountains. It serves as unique metaphor for Recondite’s musical progression. The scope may have changed but there’s still a beautifully natural sound to be heard within.
‘Hinterland’ is out now on Ghostly International; click here to purchase.