Published Feb 20, 2019For the last decade or so (and via three separate aliases), Dutch producer Samuel van Dijk has proven himself a devoted explorer of the murkier depths of hands-on techno and electro.
For 2019's Inside, he comes to us once again as VC-118A, his downbeat, less club-oriented persona (Mohlao and Multicast Dynamics being the others), delivering a committed if somewhat one-dimensional ode to interstellar solitude. It's an album probably best appreciated by those with a specific interest in modular, analogue music-making methods; those with a preference for more unfettered approaches to production and style are advised to look elsewhere.
Named after an obscure, mid-20th-century military transport plane, Van Dijk's VC-118A project definitely has an aeronautical feel to it, although not in the ways one might expect. Air and space travel suggest freedom and speed, but we're light years away from the kind of cosmic disco his Norwegian neighbour Lindstrom is known for. While the latter's music evokes lively comets careening through the cosmos, Inside conjures the rumpled scientist who monitors their trajectories from a vast distance — think Duncan Jones's 2009 film Moon, or developer Arkane Studios' recent retro-futuristic FPS Prey for an idea of the kind of atmosphere and world-building going on here. It's a world of crackling radio transmissions, gently humming machinery, and indeterminate time on one's hands.
As such, it's not exactly gripping. While there's an effective current of mystery and dread running through the album, especially on tracks like "Tide" and "Dither," keeping one primed for developments of some kind, nothing ever really happens to shake Inside out if its pensive, observational mood. Which is fine, but it's a hard mood from which to wring an album's worth of truly interesting material.
Whether or not Van Dijk is successful in this will perhaps hinge on listener predilections, but one feels there are other ideas and emotions available to augment and enrich here. A committed effort nonetheless, and Van Dijk handles his equipment like the seasoned pro he is. (Delsin)