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Seedling Mother

Rating: 8/10 ?

September 12, 2007
While artists likes Boards of Canada and Autechre have long operated with a talismanic presence as spearheads of everything electronically inclined, all along there has also existed a more subtle, less bombastic pool of artists in the electronic genre. They've been quietly bubbling away, creating solid output to form the foundations of the subtype for years. While its scope is fairly small, this micro-climate is made financially viable for these musicians and labels through low-key CDR and MP3 releases, and the odd expansive, far-reaching, gem of the genre that sees the light of day as a full-scale release.

Calika's Seedling Mother is one of the latter, a product of an otherwise inauspicious genre that is likely to turn heads beyond the already converted electronica devotees. The project's founder and sole member, Simon Kealoha, has managed to achieve a rare feat with this, his second full-length album: it doesn't come across as inhumane. Seedling Mother is fully conceivable as an album created by musicians and instruments rather than computers and technology. Although digital manipulation clearly plays a crucial role in Kealoha's approach, the mainstay of his sound is constructed with strings, guitars, pianos, drums, mouth organs, you name it.

Kealoha's main interest evidently lies in the relationship between acoustics and electronics. Throughout the album, processed synths and found sounds jostle with instrumental recordings. His tracks evolve, never dwelling on one particular idea for very long, with some new element to listen out for almost every few seconds. The overall feel of Seedling Mother is moody and chaotic, without sounding frantic. "No Hope But Everything" is an immersive opener, forming itself around a desolate guitar riff and buzzing electronic drum sounds. "rep}eat Performance" is slow off the mark, but when moving is chirpier, coming into the fore with a tune that evokes that of Kealoha's former collaborators, Seefeel. Somewhat uniquely, the album's title-track includes a field recording of a dramatic argument between a pregnant teenage mother and her boyfriend. Though indecipherable, its sheer intensity proves to be quite affecting.

Though its complexity and ingenuity are enough to warrant Seedling Mother merit, what really makes it compelling is its capacity to sound processed and organic at the same time. Kealoha doesn't get bogged down with techniques; he clearly sees beauty in the music rather than the method. Seedling Mother is subsequently captivating and easy to get lost in, offering glimmers of hope from within a murky swamp. This is an album definitely worth seeking out.

Reviewed by Mike Wright
A staff writer based in London, England, Mike Wright is eternally troubled by the American bastardization of the English language.

See other reviews by Mike Wright



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