Conforce, Kinetic Image


Artwork by Jonathan Zawada

[Delsin]


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Boris Bunnik is extraordinarily prolific. Five-albums-in-four-years prolific, to be exact. It’s not bad going, even taking into account the many aliases (e.g. Versalife, Silent Harbour) he uses to push varied sounds. He’s no slouch on the EP front, either. When it comes to Conforce, though, Bunnik seems forever intent on tunneling us deeper into his subterranean world, where cool-hued organs shiver off the walls and each watery drip or scrape on rock is acutely felt. And he is persistent: Kinetic Image, his third LP for the project, reaches inky depths EPs like the euphoric Junction (2008), or the airy Grace (2010), would never have wanted to visit, even for a second. Stylistically, not only has Bunnik clearly come a very long way, he’s worked hard for it. Accordingly, in recent years he’s gifted us with records like Dystopian Elements, which demonstrated a refined and highly distinctive sound earlier, more generic EPs only hinted at.

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On Kinetic Image, that sound reaches new levels of seriousness. One look at the philosophy- and metaphysics-inspired playlist is enough to deduce that. “Semantic Field”; “Abundance of Selves”; “Anti-adaptive State” — it reads more like a thesis than an album cover. But if such titles don’t give away the nature of the ride right away, briefly traversing the record’s cavernous and incredibly tangible spaces should. From the moment the buzzing, heavyset beats of “Excess Mortality” leap into motion, to time the phosphorescent chords and brisk claps of “Anti-adaptive State” fade away, there’s barely a moment of playfulness or elation, just gloomy introspection. That’s been Bunnik’s modus operandi for some time now, of course, but it’s also apparent that his explorations of electro — a frequently sinister genre — have had an effect elsewhere. See: the hat-driven “Underwater Settlers” (a likely reference to Drexciya) or the shrill “Formerly Programmed Decisions.”

Another key to this somber outlook is the album’s very pace. The few exuberant cuts that dotted the previous Conforce LP, Escapism, have been replaced by the cautious scuttle of tracks like “Semantic Field,” or the brooding ambience of “Scientific Trajectory.” While such pieces are obviously slower and less percussive than some of their predecessors were, they also attempt more complexity. Maybe it’s this, or maybe it’s the album’s gentler momentum, but there are times when things seem to wander; where even Bunnik appears blind to the oncoming topography. Fortunately, his detailed and exquisitely sculpted sounds prevent things from ever becoming truly dull, even when the crux of a particular track — say, “Semantic Field” — isn’t quite clear.

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In other cases, this more considered tempo is a real boon. Taking cues from the Tin Man and Absurd Recordings school of sluggish acid, “Abundance of Selves” and “Optimum Pace” flex and sway in beautiful motion, like leaves in a soft breeze. “Spatiotemporal” is similarly stunning, though for different reasons altogether. Here, immense air bubbles seem to rise through a body of shimmering mineral water, bursting with a satisfying “bloorp” sound every few seconds. While such highlights point to an artist with a masterful grasp of his own sound, Kinetic Image as a whole feels somewhat strangled by the tight grip. It’s like Bunnik is concentrating so hard on maintaining his aura of seriousness that there’s no room for real drama or surprises. So despite their undeniably vivid natures, ┬áthe caverns of Kinetic Image have a tendency to feel airless.

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