Album Reviews

Robert Miles – Thirteen

(S:alt) UK release date: 7 February 2011

Italian producer, composer, musician and DJ Robert Miles is still – whether he likes it or not – best known for his 1995 smash Children; a seminal dance release that featured that most recognisable of house piano riffs and topped the charts in 12 countries.

It is worth noting, however, that Miles veered from the dream house movement he helped establish: as long ago as 2001’s Organik he moved into downtempo trip-hop, while 2004’s acclaimed Miles Gurtu was the result of a collaboration with Indian jazz percussionist Trilok Gurtu.

Five years on we arrive at Thirteen, the third independently-released Robert Miles LP, and all suspicions of the ubiquitous Children are immediately shelved by the sound of an artist utterly at home in his own shoes: opener Orchid Miracle, indeed, ripples patiently into earshot, its five-minute existence bereft of percussion.

Moving, too, is a languid aural treat, its lush, unperturbed tones gradually blossoming into a moody instrumental soundtrack worthy of Portishead at their most menacing -�sounding not unlike John Murphy‘s In The House – In A Heartbeat from 28 Days Later – while successor Somnambulism, the album’s heavyweight at almost seven minutes, reaches similar peaks with drum rides, jazzy flourishes and freewheeling guitar passages.

Miles, of course, retains his dance credentials: for all of Everything Or Nothing’s organic constitution, its elements are arranged to induce a trance in the listener – ditto for the curious, dreamlike and bell-driven Afterglow – and Black Rubber’s prog rock persona is well and truly grafted onto the canvas of its author’s dance sensibilities.

As Thirteen wears on it begins to take on the guise of a film score – a result, perhaps, of its instrumental-only DNA – but Miles puts his vast experience to use. Take Minature World: sat in the middle of the tracklisting, it is charged with carrying momentum into the album’s closing stages, and�Miles has the wherewithal to coax the affair through�a familiar introduction and into a rocking, driving conduit augmented with any number of additional trappings.

Antimony, though, spurns its predecessor’s thrust in favour of dark, temperamental glitch-hop – successor track Archives a result of the same method – in a double act that sounds suspiciously like Miles flexing his musicality for the sake of it.�The pairing, nonetheless, brings contrast to the LP, and shakes the listener by the shoulders.

Further contrasts mark Thirteen’s coda: Voices From A Submerged Sea comes across as a mournful, orchestral take on Air‘s similarly entitled J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau, while album closer The Wolf sees the man take to his piano alone to emanate the most touching of melodies.

While it can take a lot of work to make it sound like there isn’t a great deal going on – as Miles will surely testify of his earliest efforts – this is an album generous with its assets, and it bears all the hallmarks of a creator with an extraordinary grasp of music. Robert Miles, a law unto himself as his own boss, has taken no shortcuts, and Thirteen, as a result, is as rich and rewarding a musical experience as one could hope to encounter.

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