Juno Reactor "Inside The Reactor" (Metropolis)

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It is just as the ancient scrolls foretold. Ben Watkins doth descend from his citadel on-high to give forth once more; the high-concept wizard of dance music that’s slightly “more than” has put together a remix LP to herald the release of a new studio album—rumored out fall ’11. Inside the Reactor (Metropolis Records) leads off with India’s MIDIval PunditZ’s take on Navras, a rumbling, epic piece which with huge, Yeatsian gyrations suggests the awakening of some giant, long-sleeping leviathan. Calm yosef, gentle reader. It’s OK to speak about Juno Reactor’s music in operatic terms; Ben Watkin’s shit has always been Wagnerian in scope. Big. Narrative. Whether the bpm is frozen, syncopated or blitzing, if one pays attention, Watkin’s personal mythology reveals itself as vivid, consistent and as rarely happens in EDM—identifiable. Tis’ a bit dark, dystopian yep, but shot through with a bright humanity well-illustrated by JR’s tip-top sound design; close your eyes and you’ll be favored with forms bizarre and newly birthed. If I sound a bit highfalutin (garrulous + pompous with a pinch of insanity), well, that’s just how I feel this morn… and I owe it all to Inside the Reactor and too much good coffee. There’ve been achievements of vision in the Reactor’s storied history, see: “Swamp Thing” and “Pistelero,” remarkable enough that I, certainly, have kept myself dialed in since the ‘93 occurrence/astrological event of “High Energy Protons.” Inside the Reactor seems the completion, or the last look at a marvelous sequence, or stage. I say “stage” quite f’ing purposefully to suggest that Watkins will inexorably have more to say; I believe that software has lagged a few steps behind in not being able to fully facilitate his vision, and it may very well be catching up. As the former [sound design software] evolves, so will the latter [sounds which are heretofore imaginary] find proper expression. Is this a conceit? Perhaps. I’ll know tonight when I return to Earth orbit. At any rate, ItR takes the tall trophy home. Getting winners’ [Dino Psaras, Thomas P Heckmann, Uber Tmar] interpretations of winning tracks can only… win. Perfect Stranger’s remake of Rotorblade is singular in that although of Russian-novel length at 9:30, it keeps the listener close throughout. More thrilling, though, is Bombay Dub Orchestra somehow convincing “Pistolero” to allow a creeping bpm into its saddle. Although the originals can hardly be improved upon, through Inside the Reactor Watkins has worked well with others to pen a finale which functions perfectly, too, as a prologue to what’s next. And on and on.

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