Agitated Atmosphere: M. Geddes Gengras - Test Leads

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
03/01/2013
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as M. Geddes Gengras .

The singular beauty of M. Geddes Gengras is his reluctance to stand still. As the lemmings of modular and digital synth continue to regress back into 80s pop dementia or stay pat in lengthy, emotionless drones, Gengras is not beholden to old ideas or a need to innovate, just to do something that excites him. It's such a spirit that once pioneered synthesizer compositions, returned it to prominence by the mid-Aughts and has ushered in an era of synthetic proliferation.

As over-saturated as the market has become with cheap knock-offs and those who (ignorantly) believe a cash-in on synthesizer music is at hand, allow Test Leads to prove that the world is woefully blind to what the instrument is capable of in the right hands. Gengras, whose recent work has been both experimental (the A-side to a split with A.M. Shiner titled The Blue Push/The Red Kush) and poppy (his work with Sun Araw and The Congos on last year's Icon Give Thank and newly christened Duppy Gun) blends both strains to ascend to the next level of creativity.

Test Leads re-imagines hypnotic psychedelia, loopy synth and down tempo house into a warm album just as comfortable as a thinker as it is the soundtrack to the rhythms of a late night house party. Enveloped by the three parts that constitute the suite known as "Waldorf," Gengras fashions a complete album of ideas rather than just disparate sounds. The discotheque embrace of "Night Work" folds into the Mideast sizzle of "Cairo," a revolution of its own. Not as vital to the advancement of civilization as the Arab Spring, "Cairo" and the whole of Test Leads is the next chapter in modular synth. No longer has the elaborate plaything of musical archeology, Gengras has set it free to be as versatile as any traditional instrument.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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