Minor Science - Second Language

  • The Berlin-based artist is at the top of his game on his debut album for Whities.
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  • Dance music folklore is full of stories about teenagers inventing new genres while messing around on cheap equipment. As Matt Unicomb showed in his recent piece about loops, a bar or two worth of ideas is all some producers have needed to make a classic. Angus Finlayson, who makes music as Minor Science (and was formerly a staff writer here at RA), takes the opposite approach. "I feel compelled to put a lot of detail in," he once told Hyponik. "I do sometimes wonder why I can't just relax and let something loop for 32 bars without my doing anything to it." Second Language, his first LP, is an album of hyper-detailed dance music that resists the urge to let things repeat on and on into the distance. Take "Blue Deal," the album's lead single. It's based on a simple melody that doesn't change throughout the track, but is rendered differently on almost every repetition. Every few seconds a new synth tone, drum break, or pad is thrown in, then taken away before you can get used to it. Flow is constantly interrupted by cuts, glitches, clicks and the occasional sharp intake of breath. At one point the whole arrangement makes way for a single chord played by a horn section—the most satisfying split-second of music on the LP. The sharp, hi-definition sound that Finlayson has developed over his last few releases is joined by an unexpectedly rich, colourful use of harmony. The beat-less title track and opener introduces a grand melodic idea that recurs twice more throughout the album, like the main theme in a film. As in a film soundtrack, there's a clear attempt to build a sense of drama—particularly in the album’s early moments. Listen, for example, to the way that first crunching bassline comes in on the second track, "Balconies." While Finlayson's past 12-inches stuck to a techno BPM range, on Second Language there's free movement between styles and tempos. "For Want Of Gelt" is (like his remix of Special Request's "Stairfoot Lane Bunker") exemplary drum & bass. Constant shifts in timbre build tension around a taut harmonic progression, deferring the arrival of a euphoric chord sequence that quickly disintegrates into a mess of percussion. Bait and switch tricks like this help Finlayson maintain a breathless sense of forward motion, even during the album's calmer moments. This is imaginative and complex dance music, with a level of detail that in the hands of a different artist could become overwhelming. Luckily, as brainy as it gets at points, Second Language is always exhilarating.
  • Tracklist
      01. Second Language (Intro) 02. Balconies 03. Polyglottal 04. Spoken And Unspoken 05. Second Language (Tender Phonemes) 06. For Want Of Gelt 07. Blue Deal 08. Gone Rouge 09. Second Language (Kid The Moon) 10. Voiced And Unvoiced