reviewed by Chris Matei
So here’s a tough question: when music stirs our emotions and speaks to us in ways that are hard to describe, how much of the feeling we experience comes from beautiful coincidence and individual context and how much comes from intricate construction? Does a song “about loneliness” have to make you feel lonely? Sure, there are “sad” minor chord progressions and “strong” major ones and so forth if you want to break things down on a theory level, but the question of why music makes you feel – and what it makes you feel – is a heck of a complex thing to break down.
Questions like these hovered at the edges of the time I spent listening to Danny Pines’ Centrifuge, an album whose introduction states its own purpose quite clearly: to become the kinds of songs that soundtrack your life. These are wordless, emotive abstract landscapes onto which you can project and frame your thoughts like stills from a movie. They resonate musically, but do they achieve their stated goal?
Musically, Pines covers a lot of ground with Centrifuge, based as it is in icy, dense electronica mixed with emotive post-rock flourishes. From frost-ringed alien choirs to sweet, meditative, keyboard-sprinkled surf guitar flourishes that sound like a day at a very strange beach, there’s a dreaminess and ambient quality to the album that certainly invites introspection. Even when guitars and full-kit drums kick in on “Beachside Boulevard” the effect is like being propelled through a pastel-and-neon video game world. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to make a comparison to Lifeformed’s Fastfall album, itself a soundtrack to the game Dustforce.
Where traditional big-stage post-rock acts (think Explosions in the Sky) aim for dynamics as a means to the end of creating emotional uplift (or crushing melancholy, for that matter), Centrifuge plays with density to achieve its own brand of dramatic scope-making. “The Kiss” is the sound of a million digital petals swirling, and “Friday Night” bubbles until it boils into a candy-sugar dubstep confection, but tracks like “Loneliness” are a bit too on the nose with their reliance on sparse, dark piano arpeggios to convey their titular themes.
Danny Pines has condensed the feelings that his own words have been unable to express into vibrant, concentrated musical forms on Centrifuge – there’s that title working for you. And in doing so, he presents a compelling look into his own emotional processes, even without the aid of lyrics. Centrifuge shows volumes of emotional investment on the part of its creator, but it runs into a classic and somewhat tragic problem: by so clearly identifying the musical themes and structures that stir a wide range of emotions, Centrifuge’s songs are drained of some of the uniqueness, idiosyncrasy and magic that embed the deepest grooves into the soundtracks of our lives.
Top Tracks: “The Kiss,” “Friday Night”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)