Cryo have been ID:UD favourites for quite some time now, and while we hate to tar any band we like with the brush of being “smart people’s music”, part of our enjoyment does stem from how sophisticated Martin Rudefelt’s approach to modern EBM is. As much as their material has always been danceable, it’s the detail-oriented nature of Rudefelt’s work that has always intrigued us, luring in the ear with production touches that add dimension to what could be boilerplate body music songs. The style of new album Retropia feels like a natural extension of his sophomore record Hidden Agression, that record’s smart and oh-so modern Swedish EBM shot through with the spacious and contemplative sound of the wonderful interim EP Beyond.
It’s easy to divide the tracks on the record into dancefloor songs and careful listening jams, especially where the lovely electropop-styled “Common Man” shares space with potential stompers like “Believer”, but I think it’s the songs that blur and defy that binary that appeal most. The excellent “Portal” has Rudefelt set aside his more aggressive style of vocal delivery in favour of plaintive singing, and while the hook is as memorable as anything you’ve heard from Cryo in the past, the arrangement forgoes easy club signifiers for an evolving set of pads and reverbed percussion sounds. Wholly different, “Shelter” starts in classic body music mode with breathy drums and bass working in concert, slowed down to a plodding BPM likely to scare off DJs but with an inexorable groove that is as effective for dancing as any four on the floor kick pattern.
Much as I like the songs where Cryo challenges the divide, Rudefelt is just as competent when he goes fully down the DJ rabbit hole or the headphone route. “In Your Eyes” is almost as bangin’ here as it was in its pre-release single incarnation, the cheekiness of lifting the lead from the KLF’s “What Time is Love?” excused by the expert construction of its rhythm section and the fluttering synth lines that reinforce the verse. Conversely, the echoing “I Use You” invokes Interlace with its emphasis on mechanical texture and atmospheric grit, with so much going on it takes a few careful listens to get a complete picture of it in your head.
Maybe the best and most interesting part of Retropia is three part closer “So Close”, a vocoder assisted jaunt through all of the record’s various musical modes. It’s pretty much three distinct pieces, united by some repeating elements and melodic figures, no one section ever becoming totally distinct from the others. A microcosm of Cryo’s approach, it highlights exactly what makes Rudefelt’s stuff so good; the combination of thoughtful production choices and subtle transitions in sound, executed with a rare finesse that keeps both it’s broader and less apparent charms in focus. You couldn’t ask for a much better example of modern body music, beholden to a legacy that spans from the genre’s earliest origins through to the present day, with it’s own distinct and recognizable form. Recommended.