B12 - Electro-Soma (1993), 8/10

B12 created one of the most individualistic instances of techno, a very successful precedent for ambient techno and a successful transportation to the dystopian landscape of their own creation. There is a certain amount of squandered potential in Electro-Soma, yet still a multitude of hidden moments hosting great new techno aesthetics that were individual in their realized sound. There is a very specific and individual palette explored here that has not been successfully replicated in electronic music, and while it has its technical drawbacks, its ambiance is unique and supremely gratifying. Ironically, because this is a sound that is best presented as atmosphere, it grants soundtracks like Blade Runner or Deus Ex an arguably more effective medium to work with and helps them transcend the limits that Electro-Soma falls prey to, yet this speaks even further to its individuality and forceful strength as a piece of electronic music. What can be frustrating about the album lies in the mismatched approach on some tracks and misplaced complexity vs simplicity in others. There are certain songs that slow down the significance of momentum like “Bio Dimension”, “Obtuse” and “Satori” making the experience feel a bit bloated; it could have been half the length and been a much tighter, cleaner project, maybe even one of the very best of its genre. I find myself wishing soundscapes like that of the opener were further explored and supplanted as filler rather than some of the simple, tired ambient techno themes. Still, tracks like “Mondrin”, “Obsessed” and especially “Metropolis” with its spacey yet punchy atmosphere building, show a strength in constructing environments with accompanying ambiance, especially impressive considering its need to overcome its repetitive lasering. This is offset by some of the very empty, tinny sounding beats and hand claps, something that techno in general suffers from, but luckily they are sparse enough not to make a real impact. This should say even more about the strength of the high points on Electro-Soma, that give the album its reputation as progressive and groundbreaking. The songwriting is generally very strong, apart from one or two weak tracks for their dated structures, but the album excels in creating genuinely futuristic sounding and transcendent climates in mood for which it deserves significant praise. The record itself is certainly a grower, the more time spent immersing yourself in its droning synths and driving beats the greater its effect. Certainly one of the better techno releases from the nineties and one of my personal favorites.