Cygnus :: Radical User Interfaces EP (Central Processing Unit)

Cygnus explores the tropes and memes of early techno and electro: snappy snares, pulsing, wobbling bass and shimmering arpeggios weaved around a futuristic sound and vision.

Cygnus :: Radical User Interfaces EP (Central Processing Unit)

I first encountered Cygnus when he was opening for Autechre during their 2015 tour of the States. His live set was bouncy and fast, full of classic electro themes and riffs including a cover of “Egg” by Autechre as well as some tracks that bore more than a passing resemblance to Orbital circa 1994-5. While Cygnus live set was energetic and a few times I heard some real gems of unexpected sound coming out of his gear I found it ultimately lacking in originality, coherent theme and elements that could keep a listener intrigued and, well, listening.

People have been doing electro not only since electro was first around but in subsequent waves of nostalgic rebirth. Someone like Mick Wills from Stuttgart does electro but with an intriguing new twist on it you can’t help but dance even while sitting. With regards to electro I’m actually surprised to have lived long enough to see the music of my youth, which was played on cheap instruments for the most part then recorded in tiny studios on poor equipment, come back in style again only to be played on expensive machines and recorded on expensive laptops or digital audio workstations. Even moreso surprised to see someone like Cygnus performing this music opening for Autechre who are so many light years ahead of what anyone else is doing in electronic music right now.

Honestly the buzz around Cygnus puzzles me. Is he a time traveler bringing back the old sounds of early 90’s Detroit techno? Is he a herald of the future sounds of techno and electro? Or is he a terribly nice, kinda shy kid rehashing stuff we’ve seen and heard for more than two decades already? Because on his latest EP Radical User Interfaces, Cygnus explores the tropes and memes of early techno and electro: snappy snares, pulsing, wobbling bass and shimmering arpeggios weaved around a futuristic sound and vision.

“Electronic Slave” opens with a burbling arpeggio, detuned synth bass then rolls right into a TR808 beat and swirling pads. “Radical User Interfaces” sounds like Drexciya or Solvent with nothing new to report in its thin string synths. “Nexus Telecoms” is a mid tempo jam, slow in developing its arpeggio and bells themes over dulled organ synths. Overall the album covers its basic territory but does little to venture out of the known and comfortable.

So what does Autechre see in this young man from Dallas (Texas) so that they invited him to tour with them? Good question. Perhaps it’s that he sounds so much like young Autechre when they recorded Cavity Job and played the rave scene of Sheffield and Manchester in 1992. The sounds on Radical User Interfaces are not unlike what Autechre heard and emulated in their own musical infancy, what eventually brought them to the point they’re at now which is at the forefront of a popular avantgarde sound both live and recorded. And in the sounds of Cygnus perhaps they see the light and heat of a future sound in his music through a link to their own past.

Radical User Interfaces is available on CPU.

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