- Dan HabarNam, a Romanian producer who's apparently a bit of a Renaissance man back home, never struck me as your typical drum & bass producer—his tracks definitely weren't. His few releases like "Zoom Back Camera" offered sample-heavy beats made up of sounds usually foregone in the genre, embellished with dramatic and live-sounding guitar. His debut album, coming on dBridge's Exit Records, uses a similar toolbox of sounds; just take away "drum & bass" from the equation to get a better idea of what it sounds like. Despite coming on a drum & bass label, From The Known is more of an ambient album occasionally shackled with beats that resemble techno or some sort of creeping "post-dubstep" apparatus. It's a careful listen that strikes potent chords of emotion with its delicate little robot hands, much in the same way as Consequence's Test Dream last year on Exit.
"Record" sets the tone for the album as silvery strands of guitar wind and howl their way through wispy smoke trails—think Pink Floyd's David Gilmour—as the low-end quivers in anticipation and little bits of drums tap on the glass as if to unobtrusively announce their presence. It's followed by "Divided," which does largely the same thing, only everything's a little bit louder, a little more assertive: this is a theme over a ten-track record with no gaps. Repeated motifs and sounds are carefully arranged in different configurations as From The Known subtly morphs. By the time we get to "Theories" at the end of the album, it almost sounds like we're back at the beginning were it not for the fire-and-brimstone drums that are now violently shaking its core.
Moments like that are few and far between though: From The Known is a record that makes us wait for our moments of melody and excitement, so that when they hit, the tiny swelling within the stylistic confines feels gigantic.
Third track "The Known" starts out with the record's heaviest subs yet, before they sprout a distorted and belaboured four-note chord progression: it's simple and completely devastating, the sort of thing bound to evoke fist-pumping on a record otherwise full of synth noodlings and guitar plucks. It kicks off a somewhat sprightly period of the album. "Memory" sounds like late-'90s Autechre smoothed over with new age tones. Meanwhile, "Become" and "Fragments" harbour a dull throb that has more in common with techno than drum & bass, linear and lanky but never quite taking centre stage. Instead, the guitar is always the star, whether it's coiling around the beat on "Become" or providing dry-heave stabs of momentum on "Betray The Present."
From The Known feels like a risk for Exit, especially after Test Dream's fastidious weirdness, but label head dBridge obviously believes in the power of HabarNam's endlessly evocative music—and after hearing this album, it's difficult not to join the cause. I'm not sure what exactly HabarNam's music evokes; is it techno nostalgia, weeping machinery, '70s space rock wanderlust, or krautrock alienation? Maybe it's all of those things, or maybe it's none of them. Whatever it is, From The Known is a peculiar little album whose emotional and sonic scope ends up encompassing way more than its parts, ticking all sorts of genre-crossover boxes you weren't even sure existed.
03. The Known
05. That Image
06. Betray The Present