Function : Vatican Shadow - Games Have Rules

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  • You'd think Function and Vatican Shadow, two artists inclined toward big sounds, might adopt even heftier musical modes when they get together in the studio. Games Have Rules, their recent collaborative LP, certainly merges their signature approaches to techno: David Sumner's penchant for widescreen sound design, Dominick Fernow's streamlined and devilishly effective compositional style. In practice, though, they've pulled each other rather than pushed—their ambient suite is an unexpected exercise in restraint. Both Sumner and Fernow have long worked a kind of meditative quality into their music, though we tend to get there by being overwhelmed with sound. Stripped (for the most part) of kick drums and standard techno tempos, the producers pluck us from the crosshairs of speaker stacks and let us stare down at the chaos from above. What might have been synth stabs on a Function 12-inch get smeared into throbbing pads; Vatican Shadow's noisy blasts soften to a distant pulse, with only the occasional crinkle of tape hiss rising into the mix. That doesn't mean we're kept entirely out of the fray. Sequenced to perfection, Games Have Rules opens the valves and lets in a little more tension at each stage. "A Year Has Passed" and "A Year Gone By," the album's warm center, introduce the first hi-hat—each hit a little more reverb-laden than the last, it pushes hopeful chords into more ominous melodic territory. The dark turn seems to have a knock-on effect: after the nauseous, slow-motion holding pattern of "Red Opium," Sumner and Fernow finally let their techno impulses out of the cage on "Bejeweled Body." Lush with twinkling highs, throbbing lows and bits of acid bass filtered into paper-thin sheets, it's the impeccably tweaked wall of sound I'd expected to hear when word of the producers' collaboration first filtered out. "Bejeweled Body" is the album's most obviously impressive track, but I'm glad Sumner and Fernow took their time getting there. Games Have Rules is a sumptuous, subtle pleasure, letting each producer showcase subtler sides of his musical personality without giving listeners anything less than their best work.
  • Tracklist
      01. Things Known 02. Things Unknown 03. The Nemesis Flower 04. A Year Has Passed 05. A Year Has Gone By 06. Red Opium 07. Bejeweled Body