Ando Laj – Isle [DSK049]

The Toronto-based producer releases a new record with the well-esteemed Japanese label Diskotopia.

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Andrew Lajeunesse is a name seldom heard in the crowded scene of current Canadian electronic music artists and media coverage. The Toronto-based producer/audio engineer, better known by his performance moniker Ando Laj, has been quietly producing some of the most compelling electronic music in recent memory for the better part of the past decade. He’s as prolific as he’s creative, having put out a swath of albums that span downtempo, ambient & more cerebral listening territory as much as they touch upon intense knob-twiddling breaks and more visceral, immediate modern dance deconstructions. As a producer, his sound is perpetually riding the grooves of many genres, always ready to flip the phase & shapeshift into another form—briefly perusing his page on Discogs will give you ample evidence of his versatility & work ethic as an artist.

Andrew has been self-releasing music since 2011, in addition to a number of strong releases for labels Origin Peoples, Hacktivism Records, EverythingIsChemical and Wandering Eye, for a total of eleven official releases to date. Isle is the ninth release under the Ando Laj name, put out on Japanese imprint Diskotopia, managed by multimedia artists Matt Lyne & Brian Durr. The label’s highly-varied roster—host to releases by avant-grime alchemists Rabit, Slackk & Visionist, forward-thinking dub collective Seekersinternational, and UK-based experimental duo Greeen Linez, in addition to Lyne & Durr’s own output as A Taut Line & BD1982, respectively, makes it a thoughtful home for Ando Laj’s latest release, which similarly dances the lines connecting a wide range of musical influences & sonic characteristics, without becoming overly endowed with any particular one.

Each of the four tracks on Isle has a distinct sonic character and Ando Laj’s singular approach to sound design consistently leaves one wondering: are the sounds being heard organic? Machines? Sampled? Created with hardware, computers, or both? The idiosyncratic guesswork imposed on the listener in this manner is what keeps Lajeunesse’s approach to production endearingly fresh; you can never quite tell what it is that you’re hearing, beckoning you to listen closer.

Isle’s opener “Dog Acid” introduces broken, fractured percussion breaks, followed by a decisive melodic push; sweeping tundra synthesizer pads accompanying detailed, morphing staccato rhythmic sculptures that are altered throughout the duration of the track. “Clear” is a more overt demonstration of the producer’s destructive audio processing tendencies: percussive spikes flailing atop eroding circuit-grids, big laser melody blocks morphing spastically into motion. “Spa” is a subconscious nod towards upbeat dance genres; high-impact kicks and fragmented metallic snares are paired with a visceral, oscillating corkscrew-synth that rickets & bounces along throughout the track, providing the song with its hooky alien backbone.

Of particular note is the way the end of “Spa” destroys itself; the twisted rhythm eventually warps into different syncopated grooves, snapping & overloading wildly and differently with each measure, while a well-placed, simple synth melody anchors the resulting feeling, prevents it from totally flying off the rails. “Dous One” reigns in this duality, flirting with an upbeat patterns that’s contradicted with a sudden tempo shift, accompanied by conclusive keyboard melody that’s feels like an apt wind-down to a high energy, deep listening record. This kind of ‘musical brinkmanship’—bringing a song’s feeling to a point of almost complete deterioration, then pulling it back to the clear with a dabble of comforting familiarity—is something Lajeunesse is particularly great at achieving with his music in many ways and it’s moments like these that make Isle worthy of repeated listening.

If there is one particular feat that Ando Laj can be applauded for, it’s an innate sense for flavourful juxtapositions—free-form, chaotic sounds snapping at once to razorblade metric precision; harsh, staggered drum sounds paired with subtle keyboard passages; textural intensity raised to a threshold, then resolved by uncanny melody or rhythmic patterning—Isle is full of these kinds of organic sound events throughout. Ando Laj rearranges the discarded remains of modern musical tendencies in a way that goes beyond mere descriptions—his albums are unique & personal statements in an oversaturated, post-SoundCloud, post-everything electronic music world—and this is what makes him all the more deserving of our collective attention.

by Adam Piotrowicz.

Isle is available to purchase via Boomkat here

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