Vector Lovers - iPhonica
Given that Martin Wheeler created and recorded iPhonica
on a smart phone, using just Sennheiser HD 25 headphones and Blip
Interactive's Nanostudio app, it could very well be remembered as "that
iPhone album." The idea of recording ad hoc—in Berlin cafes, on the
Yorkshire moors, in a doctor's waiting room—may excite producers stuck
in attic studios. Others will dismiss it as a gimmick. Wheeler's
luxuriantly emotional electronica certainly deserves better than that.
You cannot entirely separate the process of creation from the end
results, but those results transcend any novelty factor.
How does it sound? Well, for all its bedroom techno aesthetic, iPhonica
is rounded, spacious and full. As it flips between pretty, glitchy
electronica ("Simulant"), Hacker-esque electro ("Warm Launderette") and
sleek minimal house ("Replicator"), Wheeler coaxes a surprising variety
of moods, textures and styles from his limited set-up.
It seems that recording on an iPhone made Wheeler concentrate on melody
and arrangement, rather than losing himself in the process of endless
tweaking and EQing. "Working within the limitations of an iPhone," he
says, "has made me a better musician, if anything." In iPhonica's best moments, that is plain to see. Had he been tougher in the edit (this album runs to an indulgent 16 tracks), iPhonica
might have been a minor classic in the field of super-sensitive ambient
electronica. As peaceful and contemplative as a Japanese garden,
"Vigil" is gorgeous, as is "Patience," a cascade of glistening chords
that evokes both New Order and the unreal beauty of the Twin Peaks
soundtrack. The closing song, "Let's Go Home," tops both. Pregnant with
emotion, it's a graceful ballet in binary data and simple drum sounds.
If this is indeed the last Vector Lovers release (Wheeler has said it
will be), it's a perfect way to sign off.