Yesterday I looked at the horrors that were contained within Sigma’s new, chart-topping single ‘Nobody to Love’ and mentioned that I couldn’t listen to EDM. I qualified that by saying that I have never had anything against electronic music and never have done. I probably listen to more electronic music than anything else, and sometimes you get flashes of what good EDM could potentially be. I bought Galaxy Garden by Lone last year for one simple reason: I thought the cover was really good. Yeah, I bought the album because it had good artwork. It was a risk but one that I’ve never regretted. Galaxy Garden is one of those albums that shows you what good electronic dance music could and indeed should be.
Lone is the project of Matt Cutler. Galaxy Garden is his fifth album in six years. I suppose in some quarters that would equal a massive drop in quality over the years but his latest effort is generally regarded as the best of all his work. I can definitely hear why – the album has this effervescent zing to it that clings on to you and feels effortlessly cool without seeming distant or untouchable. Cutler manages to make a maximalist approach to electronic much sound somehow minimalist. The first time you listen to it, Galaxy Garden sounds really stripped down, cut down to the bare bones but repeated listens demonstrate the craftsmanship that has gone into each and every song on the album. In this way, Galaxy Garden is an excellent companion piece to Forest Swords’ Engravings, which took a very similar route but used its layered melodies to create a sometimes painfully dark atmosphere.
Galaxy Garden is anything but dark. It glows with a radiant aura that is suggestive of the summer sun as opposed to the bleak depths of winter, as Engravings did. From the first bars of ‘New Colour,’ you feel warmed by the tinny yet soft synths and organic percussion. Its sets the tone for the rest of the album, which is high on energy and low on filler.
‘New Colour’ is a catalyst for everything that comes after it. ‘Crystal Caverns 1991,’ ‘The Animal Pattern’ and the clattering ‘Cthulu’ (yes, an actual HP Lovecraft reference) all maintain the same level of exquisite complexity that combines synthetic melodies with actual instruments. There’s also two collaborations with Machinedrum in the form of ‘As A Child’ and the aforementioned ‘Cthulu.’ On both, it’s possible to hear the influences of both artists. Lone gives Machinedrum space to inject his own brand of electronic music without feeling out of place. This is almost surprising given that in recent times, Machinedrum has taken the gas off the pedal somewhat (not necessarily a bad thing though, as Vapor City proved). The two combine their talents incredibly capably and never jar.
Going back to Forest Swords for a minute, that album has a less tenuous tie to Galaxy Garden. Engravings featured a track called ‘Anneka’s Battle’ on it which, although not clearly stated on the album cover, is actually a collaboration between Forest Swords and Anneka. That explains the title I guess. Anyway, Lone ends this album with a collaboration from Anneka, called ‘Spirals.’ It’s more evidently pop than anything else on the album but for me it doesn’t sound out of place.
Lone proves to me that it’s entirely possible for EDM to be intelligent, complex and multi-layered without resorting to cheap, lazy sampling and leeching from the success of others. It helps to restore my faith in electronic music that is more dance-oriented. It’s unfortunate that for every Lone, there’s about twenty Sigmas. At least you can flee to the wonders of Lone instead of listening to generic throwaway music though.