One of my all time techno faves, Hybrid is a trio of producers based in the Welsh city of Swansea: Mike Truman, Chris Healings, and Lee Mullin. I have come to expect the most exotic, lush, fully-symphonic sounding tracks and remixes from them, and with their latest Distinctive Records product, this time I felt slightly disappointed. The sound textures and soothing violins may have been present, but the thread that usually sews together the majestic fabric of Hybrid's meaning and soundscape has dissipated. What I have come to anticipate from them is their distinctive cutting-edge soundscapes going deep, exploring untapped depths of sound and revisiting some of the trademark sounds that have made them so revered in electronic music.
The full length 'I Choose Noise' may please old Hybrid fans and turn on some newbies. It manages to find home in cinematic soundscapes and melancholy hope. However it is often tainted by moments of monotony and the good times are outshined by those dullards, ironically. Technically, the sound design is new, well-balanced, and crisper than previous, but the overall feeling I got was emptiness.
Once again we see Hybrid bringing along a team of collaborators, including: Judie Tzuke, Peter Hook of New Order, Kirsty Hawkshaw of Opus III, Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, and John Graham, aka Quivver; and backed by the Seattle Session Orchestra and score composer Harry Gregson-Williams. All of this fortunately increases the level of quality in what we hear this time.
As for specific highlights of "noise" during this choice, an auspicious tone of symphonic masterpiece in 'Secret Circles' makes the transition in sound immediately apparent: The lush strings and pads of Wide Angle, yet the haunting chemical sounds of handcrafted virtual instrumentation found rampantly across Morning Sci-Fi mesh together to launch the album. This is then merged with the traditional straightforward breakbeat that Hybrid has perfected, and they seem to use it sparingly on this release. As the violins quiver together, the kickin' beat merges nicely and suggests a dramatic state of affairs for the ears.
However, after a few more empty tracks in the beginning, I felt like my eardrum was perched next to a hollow tin drum and all I was hearing were echoes of industrial sound modules. Where was Hybrid's usual soul? Where were the kickass female vocalists who ranted and raved up and down my spine? On 'Dogstar,' Perry Farrell sings something that I can enjoy playing on college radio, but that I may not find myself humming later. That is how most of the vocal tracks struck me. I don't really want to remember how the melodies sounded, because the particular chords and transitions bothered my sense of harmony and beauty in music. I felt more like I should be aligned with the industrial spectrum of noisemaking.
There were a few stellar tracks that made the momentum of the album persevere and not lose face. Track 6, smack in the middle of the album, 'Hooligan Spirit,' punctuated the soundscape with its 4/4 drums leading into a surprise 6/8 time signature and a wickedly tribal sound. Plodding, moody chords in minor key preserve the breakdown, and the orchestrations outline a very effective undercurrent. This was one of the disc's triumphs, most definitely!
The next climax occurred toward the end of the album, as 'Dreamstalker' gradually breaks down into a slow segue into the final track. 'Just For Today' appears with a lone arpeggiated synth holding the introduction amidst the company of the full orchestra. As things rise to a full bore, a classic breakbeat emerges one bringing back the feeling of 'Wide Angle.' The sheer scale of epic quality is the kind of sound that's defined Hybrid since their inception, and in its delivery, this track drives the listener straightforward into electronic sequencing bliss! It's moments like these that saved the album from being an average production, and kept me wanting and anticipating coming back for some more Hybrid.