Gatekeeper haven’t ever settled in one place for very long, an unusual trait to consider when you take into account the following they’ve built up with their short discography. Perhaps the greatest strength of the duo is their ability to deliver whenever their current creative rubric is fully formed, requiring little set-up or explanation for the listener to “get it”. Their new EP “Young Chronos” sheds much of the conceptual baggage of their sprawling debut LP Exo, abandoning the heady virtual environment conceit in favour of some portentous soundtrack inspired sounds, married as always to the squelchy techno that has provided their constant musical foundation.
While nowhere as heady as Exo, Young Chronos does have some sort of theme linking its six songs together, although I’m not entirely sure what it is. I’m guessing it’s something science fiction-ish purely by virtue of who made it, although the choir and string orchestration of opener “Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven” (which cheekily begins with a sample stating it’s “inspired by a true story”) is more Conan than Clone Wars. Multiple listens would seem to support that “barbarians in space” theory: between the various vocal samples scattered amongst the tracks and the Juno Reactor-gone-acid format of the instrumentals it’s not a hard jump to make, especially when Gatekeeper toss around elements like the lute that closes out “Flame of Displeasure”.
Abstract or literal, these songs are still recognizably the work of the duo that gave us the superlative Giza back in 2010, most notably when the electronic elements are placed at the forefront. The bizarre “Imperatrix” starts off with a pleasingly alien alto vocal before transforming into a full on 303 workout, squirting and sloshing its way to the next orchestral breakdown with enough commitment to make the unlikely transitions work. The formula is equally successful on the zippy “Harvest”, where the manic synth and drumline is set against strings that gradually ascend to an equivalent pace, a pleasantly subtle transition in such a bombastic song. By the time closer “Hanseatic” stomps in with its more straightforward electro moves the stage has already been so saturated with soundtrack elements that its lighter application of contrasts still sells the concept.
I daresay that the most consistent thing about Gatekeeper thus far (aside from the solid quality of their releases) has been their dedication to storytelling. Indeed, the fact that I was able to discern some kind of concept if not narrative from a little less than 23 minutes of music is pretty telling, as is the mode of its release; Young Chronos is available for free download via Torrent and on a limited USB token. I’ll cut myself off before I get too carried away with considering the possible significance of “seeds”, “leechers” and “keys” in those methods of distribution. While I’m unsure as to what this EP signals in terms of the future for Gatekeeper, I’m always happy to follow artists that inspire deliberation. As the voice at the end of the EP intones, “to be continued…”