Realign by Broken ThoughtsRelease date: April 4, 2017
This is the third album from unsigned Chinese musician Keju Luo, who under the moniker Broken Thoughts makes music that is a mixture of ambient electronica and drone, with more experimental aspects that he calls ‘glitches’. The music on this album is reworked from his earlier work: realigned, so to speak. On first listen I was unmoved. But you can’t rush this stuff. You have to give it head space, spend time with it. Absorb it.
The tracks consist of a series of cyclical beats, pulses, blips, background drones and rhythmic noises that ebb back and forth. They’re very understated, after a while blending with your consciousness, becoming part of your thought patterns. First track ‘Subatomic Days’ grew on me, eventually became like breathing, in and out, blending with the rhythmic flow of life.
I like music I can work to (I’m an editor, which takes concentration). It needs to be unobtrusive, reserved, not edgy, able to be placed in the background while thinking, but also calming and capable of focusing one’s thoughts. Massive Attack’s 100th Window is a worktime favourite. This album, Realign, definitely falls into that category for me – by third listen I was absorbed by the rhythmic simplicity of each track. Listened to late night on headphones it is also a great wind-down soundtrack. ‘Losslessness’ is like a heart monitor, with a warm, slow beat and higher rhythmic spike; the spare single notes from a piano add melody and focus.
Much as I’m not a believer that the titles of tracks by ambient artists often mean a great deal, ‘Douglas Firs’ does give a feeling of walking in an immense Caledonian pine forest. The title of the piece lets you think about what the music is reminiscent of. Melodies echo and are far off, as if muffled by distant trees. The darker tone to the drone appealed a great deal.
At first, fourth track ‘The Primal Forces Of Nature’ jarred with me, the ‘glitches’ referred to above coming in as a series of scratches. But on successive listens that aspect paled and the beauty of this track emerged: the ambient pulse that ebbs and flows in the second half is reminiscent of early Biosphere. The beat of this piece is almost dancey. ‘Richard Harrow’ has a note of 1990s Astralasia, trancey, moving in and out of consciousness, a track for contemplation. ‘Downward’ raises the pulse a little (not much!), being slightly more up tempo, with the warm beats and rhythms having a Middle Eastern feel.
An album about which I started out feeling ambivalent grew into something that took hold of me and I look forward to further work from Broken Thoughts. The only shame is that all tracks are exactly 5 minutes long. There’s no mention of this in the press release and previous Broken Thoughts material varies in length. Nearly all tracks finish too abruptly, and are too short to really hold the mood that so many create. The groove, the rhythm, the atmosphere is just being attained when the fade button is pressed. A reworked version with longer, more organic versions of these tracks would be most welcome.