André Bratten – Pax Americana
André Bratten's new record takes its time to shake off its influences, but ultimately offers some of his best work
It's been almost four years since André Bratten’s last LP (the in turns bracing and wonderfully murky Gode), in which he's been raising a family and building a studio in his garden. Pax Americana comprises three tracks from the three 12" releases he put out last year alongside three new tracks.
In fact, it’s the already-released pair of tracks that open the album that feel most like a producer slightly fumbling, finding their bearings in a new setup before they can push forward properly. Opener HS has the bounce and snap of early Aphex Twin but slicks out all of the idiosyncratic edges into a tune that feels like it has had most of its personality stripped out of it.
Bratten has spoken of his desire to reconnect with this musical world that he connected to in his early teens (Boards of Canada, Autechre etc) and the title track is heavily indebted to the ambient techno of this era with its minimal beat and lengthy exhales of synth. However it never quite moves beyond the feeling that it's paying homage without adding much that's new or interesting to this pre-existing sound.
As the record moves along he seems to push himself through this slightly-awed replication of his heroes and into something more singular. 426 masterfully swings its momentum as some brilliantly unsettling synth whirs fade in and out. By contrast, Commonweath has a measured, 80s neon ease of control to its rhythm, but Bratten lends it a startling malevolence with his waves of mulched electronics. As good as these tunes are, the whole record feels like a build to closer and album highlight Recreation 26B, which combines his gift for kinetic but contained drum patterns with huge banks of gorgeously disquieting synths.
So Pax Americana is something of a mixed bag of a return for Bratten. Its short runtime and nature as a mix of already released and new material making it feel more like an elongated EP than a cohesive album. It’s a record that takes its time shaking off a clawing desire to replicate its influences, but ultimately finds the form that led to Bratten’s best work again. Expect great things in his next project.
Listen to: Recreation 26B, 426, Commonwealth