UTOPIA: SERIES 2 (CD)

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AUDIO REVIEW: UTOPIA SERIES 2 CD (2014) / MUSIC: CRISTOBAL TAPIA DE VEER / PUBLISHER: SILVA SCREEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Cristobal Tapia de Veer's score for Utopia Series 2 is, sadly, the final pairing we'll hear of de Veer's strange, pulsing, throbbing score and the mind-bendingly-weird Channel 4 program, since it wasn't renewed for a third series. That said, Silva Screen's release of the second series score features uncomfortable sounds melding with infectious beats.

Opening cut Brainwave Playground, along with another first disc piece, Satan's Waltz (Metamorphosis Stage 1), exemplifies the sort of track that really captures the feel of the Channel 4 series. They're off-kilter, intense, and bounce around with no clear anchor point. Yet, somehow, they find their way back to something akin to a melody after freaking out with strange time signatures and odd rises and falls.

It's these kinds of pieces that really maintain the feel of the series, with things like V Day Baby a little too straightforward in terms of sounding like something one might find in a nightclub. Much is the same with The Monarch's Pyramid, which might as well be on one of the multitude of chillwave compilations that see release every year.

Standard-sounding pieces do occasionally work, though. Over the Rainbow, with its processed strings, reminds me nothing so much as Ratatat, who I feel have influenced de Veer more than he lets on. The way in which his work swings from one mood to another within one single piece – and sometimes does so multiple times – is very evocative of that instrumental act's early work.

In terms of the double-disc set as a whole, the first disc has more energy, while the second is a series of downtempo pieces which operate either in traditional melancholy, like I Feel Separated with its quietly slow piano gradually overwhelmed by ghostly chorus, or in the blips of Splitting Lab (Metamorphosis Stage 2), which is abjectly minimal, yet still manages to overwhelm the auditory senses.

The finale, however, encompasses everything. To All You Kids Will Come ... (Metamorphosis Complete) is a 10-minute suite in which a chorus grows in volume and panic, before degenerating into a digital roar, beats overcoming everything slowly but surely, then dropping to near silence at the halfway mark. At that point, the music swirls, barely above a whisper, with only a quiet beeping to let you know its still there. A child's laughter startles you awake, before the music rises as a siren, then the beats return, bringing you all the way back to the beginning of the album, revisiting the opening Brainwave Playground, before dubbing up to a fade out.

While Utopia as a series may be finished, this compilation of de Veer's music from the program is a more than wonderful send-off, and gives fans of the show a little more to dig into.
 

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