It has taken me several listens to get into Subsonic Winter’s first full-length release, Introducing, and while it’s grown on me a bit, it still remains a hit and miss affair for me. It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with it, it’s just that nothing seems overwhelmingly right. Perhaps it’s that the disc starts so strong, then waters down a bit somewhere around the middle and loses me at the end. Looking over Harden’s press materials, it appears that the first few tracks are newer works, and these are the better pieces. Two of the other tracks are remixes that, put up against newer material, suffer by comparison. For the most part, Introducing is a comfortably familiar disc–musician Alex Harden cites Jarre, Oldfield, and Enigma as inspirations, and the imprint is certainly there. Harden shoots out of the gates with “The Inner Circle,” immediately bouncing into a vibrant Berlin School groove with a hint of laid-back lounge by way of good Netherlandic electronica. Harden rides his energy up and down nicely, keeping the flow very catchy. The melodic line, like a lot of the work here, smacks of the 80s–in a good way. (There are places on Introducing where the electronic percussion instead conjures up memories of clunky electro-pop, with everything very rigid, laced with predictably programmed fills. The remix of “The Obsecration of the Inestimable Glass Clouds” is the most egregious example.) “Providence and Virtue” cooks along on a nice percussion line, loaded with the sound of congas and tabla. A smoothly sliding synth gives it voice. “New Haven” is pure, delicious synth-pop, its thumpy bass line and, I have to say, slightly cheesy electronic drums (which I don’t mind here) hitting the nostalgia button before giving way to an absolutely ripping guitar line. It may be synth, it may be guitar. Once it blows the door open, I really don’t care what it is. It just rocks. Harden hits his stride slightly before that with “The Sirens of Io.” This is where he offers up his Engima side, but also comes away reminding me of T-Dream offshoot Picture Palace Music. Soaring vocals work across a big, dramatic backdrop that gallops past, laced with a touch of vocoder. It’s got a lush, cinematic feel and takes the listener right along for the ride.
So there is some very good stuff on Introducing. The rest simply misses for me, but–again–perhaps only by comparison. The tracks where Harden nails it, however, definitely make me interested in hearing more from him. But only if we’re going forward.
Available from the Subsonic Winter web site.