If one were to single out an overarching narrative for the trajectory of electronic music in 2009, it would surely be the emphasis on the past — on the founding myths and legends that electronic music emerged out of — as a source of inspiration. With disco breaking out from small-scale revival to established Room Two, even Room One fare, with deep house announcing itself as the heir apparent to the ubiquity of mid-decade minimal, and with the cavernously retrospective, Detroit-flecked techno of the Berghain/Hard Wax crew dominating tracklists, it seems that in 2009, the only way to look forward, was to look back. Accordingly, Mathew Jonson chimed in with his take on the theme for Ghosts In the AI, his last Wagon Repair release of the year and the decade.
The EP is the first solo production to come out of Wagon Repair’s new Berlin studios. The eponymous opener couples handclaps with a disconcerting electro warble that aims to growl you into submission. Unlike “Marionette,” which played an elegant game of cat and mouse between the ascending chords and the descending beat, a ruse that was wholly of its time (think James Holden’s “Sky Is Pink” remix), “Ghosts” posits no internal dialog, but instead searches for a middle ground between Drexciya-era electro and late-00’s techno. On the flip, “Technology” is also at once old and new, which is fitting given its curious back story. Apparently created around the time of “Octagon”‘s release in 2004 on It Is What It Is, it has only seen the light of day now following a gentle push from Jonson’s brother, Nathan, better known as Hrdvision. The elusive is grounded only by a repetitive synth pattern that seems to hint just as much at the dawn of a new age, as the closing of an old one. This unresolved dichotomy is further muddied by the beatless track “The Alchemist,” taken from Jonson’s score to the silent film “Faust,” a fitting companion piece no doubt, but unlikely to give the headphones, let alone the dance floor any cause for concern.
Admirable as Jonson’s endeavour is, the legacy of the past year has shown that creating something new out of something old, and doing it well, is no easy feat. Although the electro Jonson favours here seems more than due a comeback, the EP as a whole feels less like a statement of intent for next year than a footnote to this one.