Hot on the heels of 2016's well-received Virtuous.scr, Canadian producer Antwood has released Sponsored Content, his second full-length for Planet Mu, another thoroughly engrossing vision of a dystopian future. It explores some heavy ideas (the dark potential of subliminal advertising and the ethical quandaries birthed by web 2.0), but manages to do so without being weighed down by them. There are even some moments that could be interpreted as cheeky humour thrown in.
Certain menacing signatures remain, though. Assorted sounds of chaos and unrest are marshalled for percussive effect once again, and when human voices are featured, they've always undergone some kind of unsettling digital treatment, as is the case with the androgynous sobbing in "The New Industry."
The album especially shines in its quieter and more peaceful moments. "FIJI Water" explores the unholy union of art and advertising via ambient pads and digitized gurglings, for instance, and there are allusions to ASMR techniques throughout as well. A very pleasant surprise comes at the end of the album in the form of the gorgeous "Human," which closes things on an unexpectedly (but not unwelcome) pop-centric note, its melodic immediacy and elastic vocals not far removed from London's PC Music stable. It's a satisfying coda to an album that, by that point, has already left a good impression.
Sponsored Content is a headphone album of the first order, offering up a sonic landscape that is at once scary and pristine. It also manages to explore some difficult topics without being over-serious or pretentious. This is an intelligent and well-crafted piece of work. (Planet Mu)