In under half an hour, Maneule Frau manages to tap, ping, and punch every old-school electronic-music pleasure center I have in my brain. With star-vista drifts, high-energy constructs, lattice-work sequencing, and every textbook genre example firmly in place, Sky Blue Ice Dawn is a seamless joyride through well-trodden musical realms. There are four tracks, one for each word in the title. “Sky” takes a minimalist route, layering and re-layering a repeating phrase into a hefty sonic wall. The build is reasonably slow, but very potent, and by track’s end you are completely immersed in it. Seemingly simple, but effective. “Blue” is the album’s most Tangerine-ish track, a pleasure cruise of a thing with bouncing, shiny sequencers that rise up from a very subdued pulse. It’s picture-perfect Berlin style, and all your favorite tropes are here. When it hits full stride, it’s got energy to spare—it’s just good old-school fun. On “Ice,” Frau begins with airy drifts, then taps the throttle a little to energize a groove that finds high, sighing synth lines circling over muscular sequencer structures and electronic percussion. He throws in a touch of distortion to give the lower end a hint of rawness and aggression. “Dawn” also opens with long ambient pads, then spreads out into sequenced territory. This piece is anchored with fantastic blobs of low-end notes that remind me of Giles Reaves’ work. Their spreading, liquid character contrasts nicely with the bubbling lines above them for more of that fast-and-slow dynamic. It kind of sums up the things I have long loved about this style.
Sky Blue Ice Dawn is just too short. That’s my complaint. I want more of this delicious throwback music. Frau is following some pretty standard formulas here, but they’re laid out with a careful and respectful hand and they’re just a pleasure to dive into. And since they neither overstay their welcome nor become tiresomely repetitious, I am fine with hitting “repeat” on this and letting it loop until Manuele Frau’s next release. Definitely go give this a listen. Analog yumminess that’s good for your soul.
Available from Winter Alternative Records.