A Series of Shocks
A Series of Shocks is the second solo album from accomplished Berlin-based producer Tobias Freund. Continuing his exploration into "non-standard" electronic music, and expanding on the rich sound palette charted in his first LP, Leaning Over Backwards (OSTGUT 018CD/009LP), this new chapter presents 10 versatile tracks taking us ever further into the purist, evolving sonic world of Tobias. A warm wash of synthetics begins it all with opener "Entire," a lush synthesizer sequence with additional contributions from NSI.'s Max Loderbauer, the track casually flaunts the sheer depth of sound and sense of space awaiting the listener. Varied, playfully contrasting moods then follow, with great finesse and an ever-present attention to detail. Freund's live shows, where the use of either the Roland TR-808 or TR-909 has become an integral part, have clearly played a role in the development of the Tobias. sound manifesto, and a large proportion of A Series of Shocks has the 4/4 structure at its heartbeat -- indeed, track two takes this as its namesake, in a submerged and tense exercise. Exceptions to that steady throb are also a joy to be found, with the frenetic techno syncopations of "Testcard" offering an early moment of broken-beat hypnosis, and later excursions into breaks like the euphoric "Cursor Item Only" or the brash dub of "If" prove there are indeed complex systems at work. Reaching for more energetic zones, fans of classic Tobias. jams like "Street Knowledge" or "Dial" will be pleased to find several well-honed and on-target club tracks, like the textural "Instant," "He Said," or the more meditative, but no less visceral "Ya Po." Snaking, arpeggiated synth patterns are Freund's go-to tool to build paranoid, yet at once funky and complex moments of mystery. Repeat listening will reward the listener by unearthing even more subtleties beneath these undulating elements. For an album produced largely with machines, the end result is in fact anything but rigid; a multitude of dynamics breathe life into every track. Synth elements swim in tension, build and recede with grace, and intertwine themselves into oblivion. Warm, natural drums state their presence, but do not overpower, letting the sum of the parts create the power, rather than merely the kick alone. The resonant sting of "The Scheme of Things," matched with its smooth undertones, illustrates this perfectly. With clarity of sound and a conscious mind to allow each element its place, Tobias. has found a maturity and a true art in controlling the lively dance of the constituent parts. A master at the mix-down, everything gels; nothing is left in-concluded. This sense of togetherness continues until the very final bars of "Fast Null" leaving us in a suspended moment of wonder, and appreciation. What becomes apparent is that this album carries not only 61 and a half minutes of inventive contemporary electronic music, but also decades of experience, knowledge and passion for an artform that can only grow through the work of activists such as Tobias Freund.