Fax - Circles

Coming from an electronic background based on what listening habits I have, the most crucial element I find interesting about this particular region of music is the unwavering sense of discovery and venture I feel. Carried through by numerous artists of both past and contemporary setting, it's amazing how such artificial components such as the humble synthesizer can match - even better, in some parts - what something like a guitar or piano may conjure likewise. Mexico's Rubén Tamayo and his Fax alias have been a consistent and crucial benefactor to electronic music's continuing interest both conceptually and contextually as a mode of both engagement and interest. Tamayo's meshing of IDM melodies, techno rhythms and classic 4/4 patterns have helped pin-point the true beauty to a genre such as this, and the consistency in his musical output shows no sign of letting up. It's no surprise then that 2012's 'Circles' continues to demonstrate Fax as a musician of both appreciation as well as understanding of this genre. And while the nostalgia of electronic's finest hours is all too common here, it's the borrowing and implementation of the non-electronics that truly kicks this record up several notches.

The album opens with 'Reflections' which despite all its bubbly keyboard wanderings and flat-palmed drumbeats soon leaps out into an arctic spaciousness of solitary keys and bubble-bursting bass lines. Already the album has set its course, the glacial surroundings becoming little more than a bright icy palette amidst the track's painterly swatch of cool blues and muddy reds that are its percussion. Drumbeats and their very rhythms are a key benefactor on this record, and while isn't necessarily anything new or revealing about the way electronic music builds momentum, what it does however is remind us - refresh our brains - as to its effectiveness and its willingness to drive on. 'Fiction' by contrast is a lot more scanted in its sense for adventure. Yet it reminds me quite fondly of early Autechre albums and the way they experimented quite brilliantly with the emphasis on synth sounds and the relationship between them. The track, as a result, is to Fax as what 'Bike' was to the Rochdale duo's debut. The fact that this comes much later in Tamayo's discography suggests to me he knows full well the past success of early IDM-type music.

And like all classic albums, what I like in an album such as this is the surprising leap from stance to sprint - from what was once a somewhat minimal output of speed, to then going full-force down some make-believe Detroit highway in the middle of the night - as is the case with the album's title track 'Circles'. Tracks like this showcase Fax's drive to lead the listener into a state of both awe and admiration too for electronic music's past. Driven by the up-tempo flutter of synthesizers, a rummage of guitars sail to and fro amid the nightly setting and not only add to the environment, but come to define it as both an experience as well as a means of musical memory. Again, I'm taken back to a [two-part] track like 'Lush' or even something as grand as 'Autobahn' through its sheer grandness of scale. But closer to the track's home of techno rhythm, it intensifies the sub-genre's skill at crafting momentum amidst its beats and arrangement.

Admittedly, it's difficult to truly come to a conclusion as to whether Fax's sound is one of dominant nostalgia or not. True, those listening to this will feel the need, the want even to return to older sounds and reminisce in said experience once more, but that's not to say Tamayo has his own credentials as being knowledgeable of this genre in his own right. It's not simply a textbook exercise of mimicking or even duplicating one's established sound and I feel Fax understands and acknowledges that. '1,000 Noches' sees Tamayo implement more organic instrumentation into his mix - guitars and other string sources gelling into the steady passing of beats and vocals that waver throughout. What strikes me about this album in moments such as these is the way Fax finds it both easy yet fascinating to differentiate between his more energetic techno sounds and, here for example, something more experimental and layered as if attempting to construct something rather than drive it forward. 'Silisa' especially is a perfect example of Tamayo finding a balance between the two without ending up with a half-arsed effort that lacks in substance. Here, the synths are enjoyably bouncy and energetic, the swing of guitars too creating a dynamic sense of scope while the overall rhythm of the track creates quite the interesting momentum.

With 'You, And The Heat', Fax draws the album deeper into garage and dub electronics and the downtempo range of musical soundscapes creates an earthly variant to the album's previous outing as if hovering above the World rather than drifting amidst it. Again, there's a reminiscence of early 90's electronic music - synths twiddling and darting from start to finish and then back to their beginnings once more, all the while losing none of its pace or tempo. And yet despite everything that has come before it and has been heard or witnessed in some form of expansive visual form, the album's closer 'Supernatural' is the pinnacle of Fax's output in both the structure of its composition as much as it is a demonstrating of Tamayo's maturity and knowledge of this particular genre. Almost immediately, the track prepares itself for what feels like an intense ride, rattling percussion balancing out with the dragging of beats and programmed electronics that increase steadily. It's these more synthetic sounds that begin to take centre stage however, and while it's not overly dominant, it carries the track directly into a state of uplifted euphoria and before you know it, the drive evolves into an experience that only the few and the greatest of tracks manage to truly conjure.

Coming away from 'Circles', I wouldn't be surprised if you experience the same state of mind as I commonly share when I finish hearing this: that longing sense of wanting more. Maybe not of the exact same substance, but certainly of similar ideals and methods of transporting us into a state of limitless demographic of beats and melody. Regardless of whether you're a life-long follower or a newcomer to this guy's sound, 2012 might just demonstrate Fax as one of the most technically knowledgeable and reassuringly confident artists of electronic music. Both his knowledge in the field as much as his confidence is clear to see here, and not only is it a welcome return to the past, but a fitting assurance to us of the future of this genre. And so too a reminder that despite all the technological boosts in music technology and creation over the past 20 years, the most rewarding and enjoyable elements of music, are often the most simplest.


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Discovery: Fax - Circles
Fax - Circles
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