Another release amongst a pile of recent discoveries that I’m finally finding time to write about…
I Am Robot And Proud is the name of Shaw Han-Liem’s solo electronic project that has apparently been releasing music since 2001. I haven’t heard anything from his past material, but I recently obtained a copy of his new album Uphill City which is an uptempo set of jubilant, poppy electronic nuggets – bright, colourful, slightly-cartoonish but flowing with real human sentiments and emotions throughout – the cover above represents it well, actually.
The more I listen to this album the more I enjoy it – each listen reveals plenty of detail lurking beneath its primary-colour laden glossy surface. Han-Liem’s material is excellently crafted, the arrangements are intricate while instantly accessible. Even though you’ll find IDM-esque stutters and glitches reminiscent of Dntel’s past work and mixes that sometimes swarm like plankton, it’s always grounded by well-defined song structures and deft control of dynamics.
Throughout the entire album there are pockets of acoustic elements: fragments of (what appear to be) found sounds appear scattered liberally across the mix, strummed guitars pick up the chord progressions, or some melodic percussion will lead the way with a riff. The acoustic component comes to the forefront on the surprise track “Island Life” – a short waltz featuring gorgeously arranged wind instruments and a rolling guitar part, almost entirely made up of live instrumentation. A highlight for sure.
If anything, Uphill City wins by way of the ease with which it carries its wide-eyed and exuberant musical personality. The arrangements and writing are always intelligent, as mentioned above, but more than anything its success lies in making a connection with the listener where it counts.
- Uphill City (mp3)