there are obvious advantages for musicians who work within genres that are alaredy established. most people choose specific genres they like and find other music that fits within it. bands that are not easily placed in any one category either because they change their sound radically (witness the first ten years of current 93), or because they are simply difficult to define, like italy’s bad sector.
bad sector’s lone member, massimo magrini, is an outsider’s outsider in the music community. a forty-year old computer scientist and engineer, he builds many of the instruments he uses. His music reflects the cool scientific detachment one would expect from his background combined with the eccentric originality that comes with nought but a passing acquaintance with popular and underground music tropes.
since their inception in 1992, bad sector have released some awesome albums (“polonoid” is a personal favourite, although “the harrow” and “plasma” are likewise excellent.) the sound is alien in perhaps the most literal sense of the word. it’s lack of association with organic sound, to the extent that the electronics even sound different than other electronics and the static-suffused snippets of recorded sound that cross the field are like a cosmic recording of pulsars and quasars, interrupted by eerily decontextualised radio bursts. deep, involving stuff, but it isn’t the kind of music where you can easily reference other bands that sound the same.
to that extent, kosmodrom is a bit of a departure for magrini. the harsh, crystalline sweeps that have added such drama to his music thus far have been burnished a little, smoothed out and prettified. the new, polished, bad sector is identifiable, but changed. the sound lacks a certain rawness, a certain expansiveness, although it does, happily, retain its essential frigid beauty.
for the first time, i’ve read reviews that compare this bad sector to other artists. one review cited tangerine dream (the early bits, one assumes), which is not inappropriate. to me, the sound is also reminiscent of saw-period aphex twin, another artists whose music, like that of bad sector, was ridiculously distinctive thanks in large part to his constructing or reconfiguring his own keyboards.
i’m not able to figure out if the similarity is purposeful or accidental. if i had to guess, i would say accidental, simply because bad sector seems so far removed from that- or any- scene. the interesting part for me is that i finally feel able to compare their music with something, to give people a reference point. strangely, although this makes it easier for people like me who like to give people quick music recommendations, this isn’t a change i feel really good about. there is something about a band that defies description that makes you realise that they are special.
kosmodrom is, overall, a very good album, drawing on the best elements of ambient electronica and turning away from the directinoless noodling that can make the genre so annoying. but it isn’t the best bad sector album, which is really what i would have hoped for.