Spark Super Robot Battle Deluxe

Vancouver’s Matt Willox’s focus appears to have shifted from the melodic electronica of his 2002 debut, The Robotic Girl Next Door, to (the insufferably named genre) intelligent dance music (IDM). The tracks range from ambient space soundtracks to drill & bass and although they could conjure battles in space, they do not sound robotic. Perhaps this is because Willox used a performance-based approach with an emphasis on manual control and improvisation, rather than automation, to create this album. The first track, "My Human Objective” is a spacey atmospheric number with an almost funky shuffling rhythm that is slowly infused with unsettling electronic noise. It climaxes right at the end — a perfect contrast with the low hum that begins the forbidding I’m-all-alone-on-this-strange-planet sound of "Spectralk.” After the ambient "Space,” the intricate choppy beats of "Bombing for Peace” blast the stillness, only to be followed by the melancholic and melodic "Memor.” Willox teases with "Hardcore Robo,” as the clangy, reverb-y, submarine-sound textured number also includes bits of danceable beats. Then, somewhat suddenly, he slams into full-on drill & bass with "Zone in Effect.” Overall, it’s an agreeable, sometimes invigorating and sometimes irritating ride, and it’ll be interesting to hear where Willox decides to take his music next. (n5MD)