Objekt’s debut LP, Flatland calls itself in with incredible force. The short introduction, Agnes Revenge asserts itself with heavy percussion and a healthy dose of noise before it falls away into a magnificent sub-bass drawl and flickering high frequencies that glitter along its short, but pertinent existence. It sets the tone for an album that does little to conform to preconceived ideas of Objekt’s previous work, but still categorically adorns his signature from any angle. On Ratchet the regular beat is securely placed on the centre pedestal, with Objekt’s distinct technique contorting the sonic atmosphere above in an image of a surrealist landscape. Flatland however is unique in the respect that besides isolated incidences like Ratchet, and the masterpiece that is Second Witness, the beat very rarely occupies a functional position on the album. They work together with the innovative sound-design in the process of realising a cinematic narrative recounted within the listening experience. What’s more is, that this narrative can be approached from every conceivable perspective, as the title of the album and the press release suggest: “Flatland imagines a world in which any scene can be seen from every angle at once.”
This is most obvious on Strays. The industrialised textures, grounded by its persistent percussive rhythm, sounds like a nightclub under siege. Even a filter struggles to drown out that insistent beat as various glitches and melodic motifs vie for position at the same point in the story. A cacophony of references alluding to dance culture ensues. What Flatland continually comes back to however is a sound palette, rich with eccentricities and bounding with idiosyncrasies. On Dogma for instance, familiar sounds like the offbeat of a dub rhythm are punctuated by alien high frequency noise and sustained digitalised drones, which presents an exotic landscape within which universal elements help engage its listener. It’s on the compositions where the focus solely falls on the ethereal soundscape that Objekt’s true genius shines through.
One Fell Swoop’s industrialised metallic pads envelop saw tooth synths, which fall into spatial organ-like melodies that contrast the grunting bass and broken beats that lay beneath them. I recall Amon Tobin specifically throughout Flatland, not as a point of comparison but as a point of reference for its innovative features. First Witness too stands out for this reason, but it also holds another key element as to why Flatland works so successfully in the album format. The sounds and their function within the form of the song work together to communicate on various levels with its listeners, as part of a plot rather than some intuitive outpouring of the composer’s emotional state. Objekt has taken some care in constructing flowing arrangements to convey the story of Flatland. One stitch follows another is a unique example of this process. The beat, obscured in the lower frequencies, don’t follow the same functional demand that a track like Hypnagogia would have done from a previous instalment of Objekt’s discography. The dance element is halted by the intermittent clang of the snare or subverted by the high frequency noise and haunting melodies that arrest the producer’s advances towards the dance floor. As a result Flatland comes across as a conceptualised re-incarnation of a David Lynch storyboard through sound, rather than a dance floor record.
Skip back to Second Witness after the cinematic overture of Cataracts and you’ll find the essence of Flatland: a remarkably haunting landscape that come together under various cues from Objekt’s own repertoire to relay a surrealist tome of haunting beauty. It has the makings of a classic album and if there is one artist that should signify the innovative elite in electronic music today, you would have to look no further than Objekt.