One note descends to the next in menacing timbres as various percussive elements lazily join in, loitering on the fringes. Everything about Cryptographics of desire broods in the first few bars of its existence; before an upbeat, plucked melody bounces into view and strips the bitonal harmonic movement of its intimidating design. It sets the scene for Quantum Paths of Desire, an album that continually plays on contrasting views within the context of its compositions. Claus Haxholm is the Danish artist behind the album, appearing as his Assembler moniker, and says the album’s “point of view is persistently a juxtaposition between that of the machine itself and that of its human cogs.” Haxholm is like a child with an unfamiliar toy on Quantum Paths of Desire, pushing it jovially to the limits of what would be considered socially acceptable at times. Playing music takes on a completely new meaning on the artist’s outing for Infinite Waves – an exciting new Danish label on its second vinyl release. Haxholm toys with the listener, making music in the repetitive nature of ambience, while curious synth textures schizophrenically move between everything from trance to trap as the human manipulates the perfection of the machine. The “hooks” are jokingly constructed like the ramblings of an inconsistent memory and on a track like Hypercontinuum chip the listener grabs onto everything in the pleasant arrangement without actually holding onto much. The melodic phrases are more in the spirit of a theme than anything else while the harmonic movement, in a mechanical rigidity, remains surprisingly consistent through all of it, offering the stability the listener requires to appreciate the eccentricities of the rest of the arrangement. Above all, this translates into music that is incredibly witty, but born from a very serious and concerted effort. One of the more memorable moments in this regard is towards the end of Schizo-exstatic i-o and I hesitate to delve into it further for the sake of spoiling the moment. In fact, I won’t. All I’ll say is, you’ll find yourself climbing along with the development of the track as it continuously soars, adding element after element in an eternal build-up with an eventual “drop” that you’ll never suspect (and I don’t mean that in the click-on-this-content sense).
There’s a consistent effort on QPOD to make each moment as full as possible, with Assembler taking up every space within the frequency spectrum to create luscious textures. On occasion it resembles ambience and on other occasions it relies on a minimalist framework to make the most of nothing. Neo Shanghai Mainframe uses both devices to highlight the disparity in dynamics in a shoegazing composition that at times is little more than a kick drum and an obscure dial tone, but hides much more behind that thinly veiled exterior. It shows that even through Haxholm’s playful arrangements, there’s a serious focus behind the musical construction, and its something that really redraws the lines between distinct differences in what could be considered good music over bad music. Considering Virtual Viking Tears in this regard, the figure bass line and trotting synth sequence are immediately appealing in their original form, and draws comparison to anything that could be considered acceptable in the context of a pop song. In the context of the detuned melodic phrase repeating in the foreground however, there’s suddenly a deliberate emphasis on bad practises in music, making it all the much opaque on where it would sit on the statistical scale of what is considered “good” music. When you get to the final song Screensaver hypnosis it negates that idea again completely and like Neo Shanghai Mainframe gives us an incite into a producer, musician and artist that has a firm grasp on his talent, and ads a serious tone to the playful experimentalism we’ve encountered thus far on the album.
Quantum Paths of Desire is a fully immersive experience of an album as a result, relying on contrasts that play well with each other, without loosing sight of the final product. The teasing natures of some songs are grounded in a serious talent that keeps the listener tuned in, without exhausting results. The spatial awareness of Haxholm’s sonic textures are mesmerising, engaging the listener rather than hypnotising him or her. The eighties / nineties influenced sounds work well in the playful context of the album, hardly acting their age. Quantum Paths of Desire is thus a perfect harmony between the contrasting elements of amusing human imperfection and the majestic machine, as they mould together in the context of music.