Minotaur Shock - Orchard
On Orchard – his fifth full-length release and first for new label Melodic – Bristol's David Edwards aka Minotaur Shock walks a fine line between electronic nature and nurture, synthesizing processed acoustic instruments into his digital sound world. In a year such as 2012, it's a wholly appropriate combination – technology and nature do, after all, coexist side-by-side in the modern world – but it's not always a comfortable symbiosis (let's not forgot all the doomsday theories rooted in our mistreatment of the natural world), something that could easily be said of Orchard as a whole.
In theory it should be the most logical of concoctions, and perhaps concurrently, it's also hardly original. The blurring of the boundaries between the electronic and the acoustic has been happening for decades now; from Varèse to The Books, from Kraftwerk to Shuta Hasunuma, the line in the sand has been permanently kicked in, and taking into account this history, Orchard feels fairly ineffectual.
Opener 'Janet' is a strong enough start to proceedings. It's a high-tempo, stomping mish-mash of found sounds, synthesizer arpeggios and driving rhythms. Edwards avoids any descent into repetitive tedium across its lengthy nine-minute running time by splicing its more beat-oriented sections with elegiac strings, breezy acoustic guitars and punctuating xylophones – all in all, a refreshing and mesmerising beginning. Up next, 'Ocean Swell' sees Orchard's rhythmic complexities brought more to the fore, its syncopated drum figures maintaining attention ably enough but lacking the sonic punch of 'Janet'.
'Through the Pupils of Goats' with its galloping, epic-yet-understated guitar lines quickly re-instills any punch that's wanting, though. Treading a fine line between anticipation and release, it gradually transcends into the stratosphere, shedding its tension and reaching more chilled climbs.
The remainder of Orchard passes relatively uneventfully however. On route, Edwards takes in middle-of-the-road electronica ('Westonbirt'), quasi-Middle Eastern wanderings ('Quint') and minimal techno ('Saundersfoot') but things are never quite as spellbinding as the record's opening triptych. The problem is two-fold; firstly, Edwards' sense of composition is at its most alluring on the album's first three tracks; secondly, Orchard never quite innovates and interests enough to maintain attention over its lengthy runtime.
It's a lethal one-two blow that leads Orchard from promising beginnings into the more forgettable side of modern IDM. Orchard's greatest failing is that its fruit simply hasn't fallen far enough from the tree; it rarely pushes the envelope of electronic music and while it may provide some fleeting entertainment, its ripeness appears to be rather finite indeed.