Per Autoclav1.1 mastermind Tony Young, the project’s new LP Makeshift Splint is an album about the details of day to day life, and the various systems in which we find ourselves embroiled; technology, transit, technology and privacy. Those themes seem very appropriate for Young to tackle: his music has always been rooted in relatable musical ideas, using melody and instrumentation to keep his brand of IDM/technoid digestible. That concern with the prosaic is hard to maintain while also making material that’s entertaining to listen to, but Young does a good job of keeping the level of listener involvement up across the LP.
As with many instrumental concept records, it’s the power of suggestion that helps draw the line between Makeshift Splint‘s ideas and the musical results. A title like “Vacate These Seats” is enough to suggest a train or bus on its own, but the track’s motorik backbeat and slightly manic sequences bring the inconvenience of a commute into sharp relief. Likewise, while being named “Thin Client” might otherwise conjure images of Cyberpunk 2020 deckers to mind, the song’s use of reedy, chorused leads and a laidback but insistent groove take it straight to the IT department.
Sometimes, though, a bit of the ambiguity really helps the record and spurs some thoughts about what Young is getting at or drawing inspiration from. It’s not so easy to parse the pleasing arrangement of synth horns, dubby bass and pads that make up “Beacon on the Hill”, but the wistful melody and its eventual degeneration into morse code like bleeps give it a relatable melancholy. Interesting as well that the evocative title track is one of the album’s most rich and ambient moments, taking a break from the rhythmic bustle of the rest of the record for a few fleeting moments. Is it meant to suggest the relief of a stolen moment of personal time? The difficulty of maintaining social niceties? Impossible to say, but considering it in the context of the songs that surround is one of the album’s paths to engagement.
Makeshit Splint probably isn’t going to blow your mind, but that doesn’t seem to to be the end goal of the record. Instead Tony Young is exploring approachable ideas, a commendable enough approach in a genre that often valourizes abstraction for its own sake. It’s not a coincidence that the LP ends with the determined sequences and energy of “Take a Bow”: it’s a short victory lap for making it through another day before you inevitably need to start the next one, and a nice summation of how an examination of the mundane need not be tedious.