UK producer Lone, aka Nottingham born/Manchester based Matt Cutler, has been a prominent name in UK dance music for over five years, during which he has fostered a reputation as one of the UK’s most exciting electronic musicians.
Lone’s sound has been hard to characterise and even harder to pinpoint over the course of his four albums and a string of EPs and remixes for Radiohead, Tensnake, Friendly Fires and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinsosaurs, amongst others. His earliest releases explored a strange, hazy, warped hip-hop influenced sound, as heard on 2008’s outstanding Lemurian album. Since moving to legendary dance label R&S in 2011, Lone has pushed his sound even more explicitly towards the dance floor, beginning with last year’s melting pot of disparate sounds that is the Echolocations EP. Galaxy Garden is perhaps Lone’s best expression yet of his symphonic dance floor sound and is one of the most anticipated electronic releases of 2012.
Galaxy Garden is an album that is unashamedly influenced by the sounds that inspired Lone to get into dance music. The album is richly informed by the spirit and sound of Chicago house, Detroit techno and the pioneering, breathlessly exciting sound of early ’90s hardcore rave. Yet Galaxy Garden is certainly not simply an exercise in reverential revivalism. It is an album that takes influences from the past and warps and shapes them into something very exciting for the future.
Opener New Colours is a beguiling introduction. A jittering, simmering synthesised sound floats over some understated beats and its combination of layered sounds is a perfect example of Galaxy Garden’s immaculate artistry. As with a lot of the best dance music Lone’s sound is underpinned by a subtle melancholy and that melancholy manifests itself in a number of beautiful melodic moments – in particular, the hazy reflection of As A Child, featuring hushed vocals from fellow electronic musician Machinedrum, and the blissful melodic lilt of Lying In The Reeds.
Matt Cutler has spoken about Galaxy Garden being a record about the wonders of space and all the possibilities that entails. It is a good analogy, for there is a wondrous quality to the album’s expansive dance symphonies, as on the soaring Dream Girl/Sky Surfer and Raindance’s propulsive and airy rave sound.
A pulsing rave sound is present throughout most of the album but is most explicit on Crystal Caverns 1991, a homage to the classic UK rave sound. Taking subtle influences from hardcore, the track frenetically rushes to the finish carried by some intensely thrilling rumbling drum break beats. It is a hugely exciting appropriation of a classic sound with more than enough vitality and freshness to make it sound compelling rather than drift into pastiche.
The harder edged techno wobble of Earth’s Lungs, with its nods to LFO‘s Warp output, gives way to a string of ethereal, delicate tracks that offer a warm counterpoint to the vibrancy of the earlier tracks. Cthulu, again featuring Machinedrum, resembles a folk record set to some electronic stuttering break beats and Stands Tidal Waves washes of ambient synths are especially bewitching. The album ends with the wonderfully melodic soulful lament of Spirals featuring perfectly poised vocals from Anneka, who has previously provided vocals for dance music luminaries FaltyDL and Vex‘d. It is a lovely way to end a very special record.
There are similarities between Galaxy Garden and Rustie‘s similarly progressive minded Glass Swords album. But whereas Rustie favours an overt maximalist in-your-face style, Lone’s textured approach offers far more scope for investigation. Galaxy Garden is a compelling exploration of Matt Culter’s experiences of dance culture over two decades and its nods to the past, coupled with Lone’s infinitely fresh and modern twist, make this one of the premier dance records of 2012 so far.