Monday, May 12, 2014

Hybrid - I Choose Noise 2006

    Hybrid, a trip-hop/breakbeat band has, for all its glory, constantly flown under the radar, seldom breaking into the collective consciousness of electronic music fans, let alone others, so a clueless rocknrolla such as myself stumbled upon the band seven years ago by accident when I was looking into director Tony Scott's Domino soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams, who has collaborated with Hybrid boys on many occasions and does so in Hybrid's 2006 effort I Choose Noise, a melancholy, yet soaring sound composed of symphonic elements provided by Seattle Session Orchestra and Harry Gregson-Williams, layered soundscapes and vocals of several guest performers such as John Graham, Perry Farrell and Judie Tzuke.

     The problem I often have with electronic music and its lyrics is that I feel like it treats me like I'm an idiot, which is hardly the case with Hybrid's „Noise“ as each track from the shortest stingers to 8+ minute epics is complex and each beat, the layers of ambience and even the lyrics are carefully thought through, though occasionally the album sinks into monotony, as it doesn't contain vocals and is fairly uniform in its composition. One of the less impressive examples of Hybrid's talent is the title track „I Choose Noise“ whose melody and beats get repetitive over five minutes of play, a somewhat of a letdown after the previous track, Dogstar which was eight minutes of sonic glory with its appropriately lax but still intense vocals and the bridge that serve as a breather with subdued beats and acoustic guitar, while still retaining the synthetic, airy ambience, then rising again, building up to the serene orchestral outro.

     Last Man Standing is a track without vocals that perhaps feels the influence of Hybrid's and Gregson-Williams' collaboration the most with its Middle-Eastern sounds, some samples being familiar from Gregson-Williams' soundtrack for Kingdom of Heaven, and yet the track is undeniably Hybrid in its dynamic nature, vastness of sound and intricate sound patterns and bizarre urgency and crushing subsonic pulsating present in the album's faster tracks, such as the following Hooligan Spirit, which is reminiscent of Hybrid's earlier albums.

     Hooligan Spirit is one of the highlights of I Choose Noise with its delightfully disgusting, low electric guitar distortion, strange discrepancies in higher tones and hard 4/4 beats that make for one of the most emotionally loaded tracks on the album that then eases into a brief airier, more melancholy atmosphere before settling right back into the war stomp.

     One of the other highlights is the dark and haunting Choke, a breather in structure, but more crushing with its bass engine-room droning ambience and tortured synth wails and simpler beat, completed with equally gloomy lyrics provided by John Graham who later goes on to sing on the track Until Tomorrow, similar to Choke in its less complex but more atmospheric composition and indefinitely more light-hearted and rather acoustic guitar-driven though too with melancholy lyrics. It's also worth noting that whenever acoustic guitar makes an appearance, a member of Hybrid has said something along the lines that each track in its creative infancy starts out as a pretentious little indie piece on acoustic instruments.

     Keep It In The Family and Just For Today are two songs that again boast more impressive orchestrals, both lyricless, though the former's slower and deeper in rhythm while the latter makes for a perfect driving song, both equally soaring. The latter concludes the album, a very simple yet sharp and clear in taste, lush orchestra and crisp synth, breaking down into a symphonic elegy dominated by bowstrings, a circle meeting the beginning track of the album, the orchestral and very aptly named „Full Circles“.

     It's the production that makes this album, because while it has its gems and they dominate, when Hybrid decides to be less than stellar, it is dedicated to it. The band remains, even in its later albums that have taken a more mainstream approach, a prime example of progressive, epic, miserable yet uplifting sound experience that challenges the listener constantly and does not become boring even after years of obsessive listening, for with every listening a new layer unfolds.

- Mari Mägi

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