2011, Progress Productions
Swedish electro outfit Cryo‘s sophomore LP Hidden Aggression was one of last year’s big sleeper records for me. Martin Rudefelt’s precise and polished tracks got their hooks into me with their well-crafted beats and even-keeled, commanding vocals, and I soon found myself consistently cuing up Hidden Aggression as the soundtrack to plenty of late night Deus Ex sessions. (A not insignificant amount of time. Look down. Are you wearing black socks? If so, then I’m playing Deus Ex right now.) Given how sleek and rewarding that record was, I was intrigued to hear of Rudefelt’s next move: the release of a concept EP depicting a journey into progressively deeper fathoms of space.
Beyond demonstrates a side of Rudefelt’s work that’s not only deeper, but…I want to say “trancier”, though not in the sense of the genre. “Spacier” might be a better (if obvious) descriptor, with hints of Vangelis, and even some Moroder and space disco beats working their way through the metallic sheen of Cryo’s clinical exterior. This willingness to be influenced by a broader range of electronic music works out well for Cryo; Rudefelt seamlessly incorporates these sources into his solid electro chops, especially on lead track “First Light”.
That said, given the conceptual, somewhat more experimental structure of this record, I feel as though some of these tracks (especially the middle ones) would’ve been better served by longer running times. “Escape Velocity” does an effective job of establishing, then reconstructing a shuddering, punchy groove a few times over, but still seems to end too soon. “Event Horizon” rolls by with a tight, pulsing riff that strikes a great middle ground between Cryo’s more menacing moments and classic Nitzer Ebb, but is, again, over too quickly, and I can’t help but wonder what else a longer version of this track might’ve been able to bring to the table.
Beyond ultimately does make good on its concept’s promise of communicating the breadth and scope of a journey into the void (and film buffs who recognize Rudefelt’s use of the line “my mind is going” know how transformative such a journey can be). Final track “Beyond (Miserere Mei)” more than makes up for the earlier tracks’ brevity, offering a long, meditative look into space, with some subtle but effective hints of Klaus Schulze’s work. At the bridge of penultimate track “Singularity”, the emergence of a simple yet evocative synth wash seems to encompass not only the entirety of the moment but the entire voyage that Cryo has been plotting out over the EP: it’s a calm, utterly expansive moment which seems to underscore the comparative insignificance of humanity in the face of whatever wonders it might encounter at such outer reaches.