reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
mōshonsensu is the moniker for Daryl Robinson, a UK producer making a fresh start under a pseudonym of Japanese origin. The commentary for his new album speaks with refreshing honesty of the importance of IDM and ambient music during the plight of a depressive episode in his life.
A Strange Dystopian Tundra could easily be a description of the landscape as we currently view it, as Robinson notes. “For me it represents dark times but also better times ahead hopefully. This album is combined with glitched beat patterns, melodic beauty and ambience woven together in a heuristic nature.”
What’s the music like?
Robinson’s music is equal parts meaningful, mysterious, uplifting and just occasionally troubling. In these respects it is an accurate reflection of feelings we have had throughout the last few years, but ultimately there is solace to be found in the ambient contours of his work.
Mystical Minds is a wonderful way to start, a track with a light touch but rich colours turning golden in the mind’s eye of this particular listener. Some of the mōshonsensu titles are amusing – Tedious Cricket, anyone?! – but in fact this is a track with a slowly rippling rhythm against a more distant hook line. The Detectives Walk In The Tundra is a striking addition, featuring a penetrating vocal from Jo Joyce, her contribution becoming a concentrated vocal refrain that sticks in the head. Sea Of Sound feels just like scattered footsteps on a shoreline, its beats allowed to run free, while Feel Down Innit also has busy activity, percussion flitting across the broad picture behind, like moths unwilling to settle – in this case possibly an effective depiction of anxiety and the fight against troubled thoughts.
Tribe has a serene but uncertain treble line, while Lost & Found Tape is a curious combination of angelic voices and grubby electro beats, a kind of inner city collage between the street and the church. Disposition Intact heightens this contrast, with big beats and airy voices, becoming a longer study of remote beauty.
Does it all work?
It does. The more you hear this album the more the emotional investment becomes clear, and yet it operates well on a surface level too.
Is it recommended?
Yes. By making an album that acknowledges the importance of ambient music to counter stress, mōshonsensu successfully faces the problem and gives us the obvious solution. As its title implies, A Strange Dystopian Tundra is not an easy ride, but it leaves the listener in a better place for hearing it.
It is also a timely reminder that to describe music as ambient does not short change the effect it can have on the listener.