Alex Cortex, Kihon


Artwork by Angelika Arendt

[Pomelo]


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Alex “Cortex” Neumann has been one of the more persistent and multifarious electronic artists of the last decade. Playing genre hopscotch with true abandon, his individuality is not tied to a particular sound; rather it rests on a large collection of sketches of assorted musical color. On his third album, Kihon, he comes through with something typically eclectic and quietly brilliant.

Like previous work, the tracks here (all austerely listed as “Kihon 1/2/3” etc.) cover a spread of ground: minimalist techno, smooth house, dub, acid, and film score. However each piece is tied together through emotional understatement, and most display a welcome functionality for music of such an introspective and cinematic bent. “Kihon 6” is a case in point; its haunting three-note synth, sharp bass, and tribal rimshots call to mind a night drive around Miami circa 1985. By contrast, “Kihon 2” is as heads down as the LP gets, all weighted kicks and dusky arpeggiated bass work.

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While the ordering is somewhat schizoid, with some of the hardest rhythms in the first 15 minutes, Cortex weaves an enjoyable ebb and flow through clever use of near beatless sketches. The 80s influence throughout is palpable, although the reference points are attended to subtly. As such, cleanly immersive production value and sharp atmospherics are the cornerstones of the sound rather than early Chicago/Detroit fetishism. So if your primary interest lies in raw techno you may find that the edges of this collection are the wrong side of smooth. And indeed, it is difficult to imagine many getting excited by the polite lounge stylings of “Kihon 8.” However, elsewhere Cortex displays a dexterity for richly textured melody in music that still packs a brawny punch. Quite aside from home listening, most of these will curry favor on the floor.

The focused simplicity and innocence on display give the impression that, rather like Danny Wolfers, Cortex is making music from a place that is highly personal, and unburdened by any notion of scene flavors. Indeed, techno may be the framework he has chosen to hang his canvas on, but Cortex by no means fixates on the electronic wormhole. Rather, Kihon speaks of the limitless outdoors: fresh air and the sound of an inventive mind at play.

oootini  on November 17, 2011 at 11:17 AM

yeah, loving this. great record. i wonder will i still be listening to it in 10 years like his laconic album? probably.

petesrdic  on November 18, 2011 at 12:53 AM

“quietly brilliant” indeed. This is a really strong home listening album, & the sound design is first rate. Rich and warm, and downright interesting ! For my money def one of the strongest and most consistent releases of ’11. Don’t miss this baby.

daniel  on November 18, 2011 at 1:09 AM

good review

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