Spanish artist Alex Under marks the progression of his work with the release of second album, La Máquina de Bolas, released in March 2012 through Soma Records. The acclaimed producer and CMYK label boss returns a more experienced, complex artist after a seven year album hiatus following 2005s Trapez LP release, Dispositivos De Mi Granja.
In this latest release we hear an engaging offering from the Madrid native. There are some signature musical aspects which were also part of AUs earlier output such as the introduction of an theme early on, which is subsequently manipulated and built upon. The focused concentration on a limited selection of sounds also reflects earlier work. However, much of Máquina subverts the practised minimal style of the mid-00s showing a desire to create expansive sounds within this stripped-down minimalism.
Alex Unders collaborations with Soma have given scope for much exploration. The recent remix of Pablos Turn the page track for the Soma 20 compilation highlights this. The idiosyncratic original seems a difficult remixing prospect with varying tempos between the vocal and sampled tracks in original and remix. The success of the remix serves to reiterate the artists mastery of sound, form and style. His attention to detail enables the finished product freedom from any sort of overbearing production.
First track on Máquina, Bola 1, acts as an introduction to the album sound, suggesting the album be taken as a complete whole, rather than disparate individual tracks. The track provides a sparse compositional ramp into the subsequent tracks and slowly moves into Bola 2, which, engages samples with subtlety and soothing progression.
The themes and phrases on the album help to maintain the connected nature of the piece as a whole. There are repeated themes throughout various tracks and some self-referencing. The fluidity and balance as a whole is helped by the insightful choice of effects as heard clearly in Bola 5 which wallows in soft liquid synths.
The sound gets deeper throughout the album but the balance is well maintained and some clever tools for offering an almost tactile sound are invoked by AU as he brings in the rising bass tabla drum tones to merge with some lower beats and bass, bringing the impact of the bass up in the mix whilst never losing focus of the complex dynamics of the whole work.
The highlight of the album is waiting right at the end with Bola 7 hitting a bass heavy and forceful sound, the perfect way to tie together all elements of the album up to this point. The rhythm sits perfectly at the end of the project, which feels completed.
La Máquina de Bolas certainly conveys a new direction for Alex Under with his aesthetic obsessions and meticulous production holding him in good stead. This new material broadens expectation for the producer and the range of sound doesnt unnecessarily complicate. This affecting second album signposts the next period in AUs trajectory.