Normal Control Range (Bliss Out Vol. 16) by Technicolor (Review)

While all of the songs are electronic in nature, they avoid falling into the normal trappings of your average dancehall fare.
Normal Control Range - Technicolor

Don’t be surprised if you were to find this album in the “Techno” section of your local record store. It’s amazing at how broad and inaccurate genres can be. When I think of “techno” music, I think of simple, repetitive rhythms repeated ad nauseum with cheesy vocal snippets enticing me to get up and shake my booty, handclaps that sound like they came straight of the Casio keyboard my parents have, and an over-reliance on the high-hat.

And I suppose that at first listen, Normal Control Range might fall into that category at first. It’s got programmed drums and synth snippets, so it’s got to be techno, right?!? If you’re familiar with any of Darla’s other “electronic” offerings, such as Junior Varsity KM, than you know what to expect of Technicolor. While all of the songs are electronic in nature, they avoid falling into the normal trappings of your average dancehall fare. But they certainly skirt the line.

“Running” starts out sounding like some DJ remixed Autechre for the dancefloor before ditching it all together and making it a club-happy mix. The album’s best track, “On the Bottom,” sounds like Pan American if Mark Nelson was recording at the bottom of the ocean. Strangely enough, this track really works for me. It’s got a great head-nodding, top-tapping rhythm, but the reverberating, submerged tones keep it from getting silly and rave‑y.

However, the other tracks get a little more abstract and less club-friendly. I have a hard time picturing “Wa-Ha-Ka” with its opening drones and Joy Electric-like noodlings and warblings to go over big in a danceclub. “Candy” is the album’s other high point, with harsh, machinegun-like rhythms tempered with a lethargic bassline and funny little analog bubblings floating around in the background. And “Green Extra” sounds oddly like a really poppy Starflyer 59, say from The Fashion Focus, sans the mope.

Like the aforementioned Junior Varsity KM, the emphasis is less on laying down crazy beats and insane samples. While the tracks certainly have enough rhythmic propulsion, enough attention is paid to the odd little atmospherics to make the music interesting, if not captivating. There’s more emphasis placed on experimenting with the sonics, as opposed to just flashing mad programming skills. At times, it gets a little maddening when the music tends to drift away on its own accord. But it’s a pleasant enough journey.

Read more reviews of Technicolor.