Casino Versus Japan Whole Numbers Play The Basics Review

Album. Released 17 October 2002.  

BBC Review

The second album from Milwaulkee based Casino Versus Japan gets organic with the...

Peter Marsh 2002

It's a cliche that electronic music is by definition lacking in warmth and humanity, but judging from the present endless stream of glitched up abstraction flowing from the hard drives of Powerbooks all over the world, it's one that holds a fair amount of water.There's still the oddrecord that bucks the trend though, and this second album from Casino versus Japan (aka Milwaukee based Erik Kowalski) is one such gem.

Kowalski's approach is lo-fi, organic; shrouding billowing synth arppegios with clouds of reverb and layering lush sustained chords over dirty analogue machine beats, his mournful, low key electronica offers a welcome alternative to microscopic sonic manipulation and squeaky clean digital noises. His reference points are at once familiar but hard to pin down; Brian Eno, early Kraftwerk and even Gary Numan are hinted at, along with (on the sublime 'Making Lake Park in the Sun') the queasy throb of My Bloody Valentine at their most atmospheric.

Kowalski keeps his pieces short, with ideas never outstaying their welcome (there are 14 tracks in 45 minutes). Like faded polaroids or old super 8 film, they seem to be evocations of times or places past, long childhood summers now a distant memory. The piles of tape hiss or crackle that hover over some pieces ("You Were There", "Slo Bid Bellwave") act like vaseline on a lens, lending a hazy,smudged quality, almost as though the music was restored from ancient, flaking tapes unearthed from some forgotten attic.

The layers of lush textures will keep the receptive ear in a blissful state of arousal, sometimes even overloading it; this is music that's not afraid to be beautiful. What stops it became mereflotation tank fodder is the sense of unease that sometimes lurks beneath its sublime drift; it's as if in Kowalski's musings on memory he unearths some things he'd rather forget.Utterly gorgeous.

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