On the basis of his previous two albums, Oneiric and Glyphic, many had pigeon-holed Barry Lynn, aka Boxcutter as a dubstep artist. Even though a close reading of those two albums suggested there might be a wider range of music influencing Lynn, the appearance of The Dissolve has elicited considerable surprise from those expecting more of the same. First impressions of The Dissolve are that it is a riotous hoot, exploring a wide musical terrain with a fresh sense of energy and fun so often absent from the often austere spectrum of electronic music.
The first three tracks announce Lynn’s uncompromising, sometimes disorientating intentions. The opening Panama is groovy but summery and tropical – resembling a remix of something from an exotica compilation. The subsequent Zabriskie Disco is more upbeat and relentless, building on a deceptively simple two step beat (a tactic reiterated on the brilliant Moon Pupils, full of weirdly juxtaposed cut up sounds). All Too Heavy marks the first appearance of vocalist Brian Greene. Perhaps inevitably as a result, it assumes more of an R&B flavour, although there are also hints of the heavy fusion currently being explored by Flying Lotus in his Infinity project.
The appearance of Greene on three tracks is one of many characteristics distinguishing The Dissolve from its predecessors. This is the first time that Lynn has attempted to engage with more song-based forms, and he has done so with exciting results. The album’s title track is a particular highlight, with Lynn working much more with sound and texture and Greene’s vocal brilliantly disguised with effects.
Occasionally, there are also timely reminders of Boxcutter’s past. Factory Setting is very bass heavy and mechanistic, garnished with an abrasive, high-pitched melody. Topsoil seems to bridge the divide a little, deploying some of the funky synth and electronic piano sounds that predominate here with a generous sprinkling of dub echo sounds too. Perhaps The Dissolve is not quite the radical break with Lynn’s past that some have suggested but rather a (substantial) broadening of his sonic palette.
The Dissolve may not have a cohesive identity, but then that would seem to be precisely Lynn’s intention. This is a musical world where anything is possible, or at least available for creative plundering. Those who have managed to adjust to the attention deficit techniques of FlyLo or Prefuse 73 should have little problem in embracing Lynn’s new approach, particularly as it appears to have resulted in one of the best albums of the year so far.