CPU Records has been focused on electro-influenced sounds since 2012, and many of their releases have proven to be essential over the years. It should be no surprise, then, to see a debut from Maëlstrom on the Sheffield-based label.
With genre-spanning releases, Joan-Mael Péneau, better known as Maëlstrom, has always found a home producing electro — and it couldn't be more fitting given the current zeitgeist. With sharp, acid-based melodies and bass lines, coupled with percussive sounds that seem to be shredded to shrapnel, the artist gives us his most focused and polished work to date with the mini-LP Alph4.
The first track, "Alph4," makes the artist's influences quite evident, with a delicate melodic approach that mirrors some of Richard D. James' own productions. Where Maëlstrom separates himself is through an electro-influenced approach to rhythm and bass. The artist forgoes some melodic sensitivity in "Who Else Is Reading" in favour of grit, without being emotionally devoid thanks to the airy orchestration.
"Letter From M" has the most aggressive drum pattern of the six, and its soaring arpeggiation that floats overhead iridescently brings to mind Efdemin's "Parallaxis." "Lost Echoes," featuring Djedjotronic, is the record's strongest; with the Autechre-influenced pad work and innovative percussion, the track's progression is engaging as it is rewarding. "Vznietit" and "Dialectics" are standard acid and electro fare, although certainly classy examples of both. Finally, "Praxis" ends the record with stuttering sounds that seem to flutter away in the background.
There's a lot to like in Alph4, but there are times where perhaps a more unrestrained approach may have brought out more from Maëlstrom. Is what's presented here moving electro forwards, compared to what someone like DJ Stingray has been doing for more than 20 years? That remains to be seen. What can be said is that Alph4 is an entertaining and precise excursion into the modern electro resurgence, and is a fitting entry for both CPU Records and Maëlstrom. (CPU Records)