Illum Sphere: Ghosts Of Then And Now (Ninja Tune, 2014)
Ninja Tune debut from Manchester producer Ryan Hunn. His older stuff was closer to abstract instrumental hip-hop, but this album takes in a much wider scope of electronic music, touching on various current forms of “bass” music, R&B, house, Krautrock, and more. “Liquesce” is a shadowy, crackly, string-filled noir intro which has Shigeto drumming away in the background. “At Night” kicks up the tempo with light female vocals and edits, and 808 State-esque synths. First single “Sleeprunner” has more vinyl crackle than the first track, a nice Krautrock (via the last Portishead album) synth arpeggio, and a steady chugging beat which builds to juke intensity towards the end, along with vintage synths and strings. “The Earth Is Blind (Prelude)” is a spacey interlude leading into “The Road”, a downtempo R&B ballad with a stomping beat and frequent cut-ins from what sounds like a police radio, rhythmically sampled into the beat. “Ra_Light” has kicking beats, city-light synths, and a break in the middle with some excited-sounding voices, and then an outro of some slowed, echoed voice. “It’ll Be Over Soon” has a little more vinyl crackle, fast jittery beats, and a recurring sample of kids going “yeah!”, and later a robot voice repeating “game over” over a fast juke-inspired beat. “One Letter From Death” is a short, simple track with a rimshot-heavy beat, snakelike rattling percussion and bass synth. “Ghosts Of Then And Now” has a soft sensuous beat and organs, and gets more intense during the second half, which features atmospheric backup vocals. “Love Theme From Foreverness” is another moonlit R&B ballad, with midtempo beats. “Lights Out/In Shinjuku” starts out sounding like it’s going to be tense and frantic, but then really calms down during its second part. “Near The End” is the most uptempo, busy 4/4 dance track, with an upfront live-sounding beat and jazzy keyboards. “Embryonic” is one last vocal track, with a cumbia-esque beat and xylophones, and synth washes.