- Hyper-detailed experimental tracks that tackle love and romance.
- Under the name Antwood (short for Margaret Antwood), the Canadian producer Tristan Douglas tackles the kinds of topics that might lead to a not-so-distant techno-dystopia. First there was 2016's Virtuous.scr, which told the story of an AI coming to life. Next came 2017's Sponsored Content, inspired by the now ubiquitous presence of branding and advertising in society. On both of these albums, Douglas proved he could turn abstract concepts into clear works of art, housed in hyper-detailed, maximalist club structures. On Delphi, his third LP for Planet Mu, he explores how technology pervades yet another sweeping force in our lives: love and romantic relationships.
To bring this idea to life, Douglas frames the LP around a fictional character named Delphi, designed with the help of his girlfriend, Olivia Dreisinger. Delphi's deadpan voice, run through femme bot-sounding filters, reads out text messages and the kind of quasi-poetic iPhone notes scrawled by quarreling lovers in the middle of the night. Often, these lines are questionably sappy ("I find a coffee shop / and then connect to the internet / and then connect to you," Delphi says on "A Hostile Message"), but they come together with just enough metaphor to make the story click. Delphi is a tale of romance in the age of WhatsApp, and more specifically, how crazy you feel when a lover doesn't text back.
Douglas explores this topic imaginatively. On tracks without a character monologue, he combines high-definition club sounds and tender piano miniatures, crafting an emotional rollercoaster that expresses feelings left unsaid. "Portal," with its whipping white noise and piercing arpeggiated synths, is wrought with relatable rage. "Castalian Fountain" flips between innocence and anguish, sometimes singing with harp and flute, other times sulking with a heavy, grime-tinged beat. The sense of despair on the operatic "Ecstatic Dance" would suit Romeo And Juliet's final act.
Overwhelming as Delphi's mood swings can be, they're worth putting up with. Douglas's production is full of elaborate ideas and strange tricks, even if it sometimes feels cheesy or overwrought. His attention to details shines through not only in the album's futuristic sound design and amorphous rhythms, but also its commitment to the narrative structure. Take the recurring melody on two tracks named after the LP's fictional character. On "Delphi," an aggressive rave track towards the beginning, it's made with shrill vocal chops; on "Delphi's Song," a moonstruck composition towards the end, it's played with sentimental piano. Delphi as a character may have annoying and adolescent moments. But in concept and construction, Delphi the album is advanced.
01. Skype Ghost
02. Club Dread
05. A Hostile Message
06. Healing Labyrinth
08. First Delphic Hymn (To Apollo)
09. Cave Moth
10. Castalian Fountain
11. Ecstatic Dance
12. Delphi's Song
13. Some Dust