London techno vet Inigo Kennedy has been integral in defining the sound of Token, the up-and-coming Belgian label. Tough, melodic and always polished, his music encompasses Token at both its hardest and softest. Vaudeville, his fifth album, finds a wonderful equilibrium between these extremes, updating the stargazing sound of second-wave Detroit techno to create a stunning techno LP that's as ornate as it is powerful.
"Lullaby" isn't a word you'd normally associate with rip-roaring techno, but this one definitely rips, with a rambling chord progression that catches and tears on the drums beneath it. There's an undeniable beauty to it as well, an icy glow that recalls late-period IDM producers like Arovane. "Vellecula" is loaded with sludgy electronics and a palpitating kick drum, but everything feels like it's floating delicately in suspension. "Requiem" contrasts its thudding snares with brightly-lit organs and synths, seamlessly connecting a handful of parts that feel like they're moving in different directions at the same time.
Even at these off-kilter moments, there's something about Vaudeville that's almost reassuring. Tracks like "Plaintive," with its crystalline melodies, have the same easy confidence as Robert Hood's Motor: Nighttime World 3. Both records show a long-running techno artist during a fit of latter-day inspiration, where they're far from breaking new ground but still dazzle in their humble ways.
Kennedy's consistently excellent sound design is a big part of that appeal, but you might only really begin to notice it on the tenth or 20th listen. An avowed fan of digital synthesis, Kennedy shows the good side of working entirely with the ones and zeroes: every element sparkles and shines, and it's all set in such a rich world of texture and colour that it holds up across the entire LP—never an easy feat for a techno album. It's this attention to detail that elevates Vaudeville from a reliable techno record to something more special.