You and a friend may share a mutual love for something — a label or album, for example — but chances are, you’re each hooked on different aspects of it. For me, Lunar Disko’s strong point has always been its playfulness. On a 12″, this has worked just fine. Whether covering house, electro, or odd synth sketches, the Irish label’s cheeky streak has allowed it to stand out. But I wondered: just how well would this character translate to an album, the “serious” format? International Airlines is the label’s first long-player, and is also the first Lunar Disko appearance of VC-118A, aka Holland’s Samuel Van Dijk. Using the name Mohlao, he’s spent the past three years or so making perhaps the most serious music there is: dub techno. Accordingly, the 46-minute-long International is an unfaltering journey inwards, stark synths ever lighting the way. Solemn? Absolutely. And yet, its potent mixture of ambient, IDM, and electro don’t serve to alienate it from the rest of Lunar Disko’s catalogue.
The playfulness is still there; it’s just subdued. In “Deploy,” for instance, weird-sounding synths bubble, squeak, and growl, forming a psychedelic patchwork. They’re not particularly colorful, however, lurking down in the track’s bottom registers with heavy kicks. Similarly, the following track, “Thrusters,” is filled out with odd, racing Arps, but they’re matched with the most haunting of chords. Then there’s the inescapably chilly “Cylinder,” which still forces a sunny association onto the brain via its obvious use of reggae rhythm.
Speaking of rhythm, Van Dijk’s use of percussion is particularly vital. Whether consciously or not, the album seems to vacillate between smooth and rough textures. The former encompasses beatless or kick-only tracks like “Vaporise” and the aforementioned “Thrusters,” while the latter takes in spiky snares and corroded claps. It’s these abrasive moments which provide the album’s real thrills. That said, they couldn’t shine without the smoother cuts there to provide contrast. The rapid-jabbing snares of “Mapolar” are arresting because they’re preceded by more than 12 minutes of slow and icy movement, for instance. The following piece, “Antenna Forest,” further capitalizes on this sudden momentum, pairing snapping claps with doleful, echoing chord hits. The next track doesn’t exist, which is unfortunate. Just as International Airlines appears to be gaining real impetus, it suddenly ends. And that’s the worst thing I have to say about it. If you’re anything like me, the album’s conclusion will leave you only partially satisfied, wishing for more of Van Dijk’s intricate-sounding timbres and eerie overtones. Or perhaps another of the record’s good aspects; there are plenty to choose from.