Kreislauf (101), 2011
Laid-back trip-hop grooves and glitch-ridden atmospherics are the order of the day on Electric Waste from Polish producer Niteffect. The album slouches along with sly urban confidence, using slow-paced beats with minimal glitch patterns and distortion, along with mood-setting synthwork and melodic keys. This is not an instrumental hip-hop album, however, for the electronics themselves leave no room for lyrics, and the listener is not left wishing or searching for additional content.
Niteffect has been at his game for a while – this is his fifth full album – and it’s immediately obvious. “The hero is dead” opens the album with head-nodding grace; this guy knows how to drive a track. Dramatic stabs are offset by delicate chime and xylophone, while the beat chugs alongside. It’s easy to imagine a night-time cityscape, or a stroll through the concrete maze of any downtown city; Electric Waste has a strong and definite sense of identity. “Vandykes” adds space and wobbles to the mood, and “sobersides” uses a high-pitched melody to introduce just enough tension to the beatwork.
There are sixteen tracks on Electric Waste, but none are over four minutes; Niteffect understands the value of not overstaying his welcome. He allows each track to develop to the potential he designed, then he cuts it off – sometimes rather abruptly. There are no drawn-out intros or outros here, and no filler: each track has its own individual identity, yet each is part of the larger concept of the album. “Swing swift” motors casually along through pulsing sequences that bring to mind a drive through the city’s heart, while the follower, “zonked out,” stumbles along across an uncertain bassline etched with stabbing glitch and through a haze of dirty urban ambience. The stabbing drills of “waste my life” seem like a misstep, shifting into blooming keys and piano melody and back again, while an off-key bass sequence fires monotonously. Not a bad track, just a little precarious. Niteffect’s smoothness returns on “termination,” washing over with chord-changing deep drones with ambient keys, while the ever-present percussion funnels us through the streets and alleys. Halfway through the track, an introspective piano melody emerges, giving the track a new face, and a welcome one; this is one of Electric Waste’s most accomplished tracks.
The latter section of Electric Waste take a turn for the bizarre. The alarming techno stabs of “quick to anger” somehow retain the established atmosphere, as does “power strip”, despite its strange Speak-And-Spell vocal samples. And “sweet sorrow” focuses on a female voice relating the chemical properties of sugar, while the drums and synths do their thing. “Binary exponents” then closes the album with a return to Niteffect’s formula of decidedly trip-hop moods with downtempo percussion, until the whole thing ends rather suddenly, like the whole affair just ran itself off a cliff.
Electric Waste is something of a curiosity. It seems uneven and erratic, but on close listens, it really isn’t. Some tracks – “the hero is dead”, “sobersides”, “termination” – work better than others, but Niteffect experiments enough to keep the album from becoming sluggish and formulaic while keeping the structure intact. The short track times keep my finger off the skip button on repeat listens, as I try to figure out exactly why and how everything fits together as well as it does. Niteffect’s unusual, unexpected, and downright odd cityscape is one I enjoy visiting….when the particular mood strikes, that is.