4.5 stars

I don’t think I’d be offending anyone by saying that most listeners of electronic music focus more on singles than albums. When you listen to Hybrid Minds or Bicep you normally wouldn’t play the whole album start to finish. However, there are electronic albums that actively work against this listening style.

Amnioverse is an album that rewards patient listeners. I’ve gone through Amnioverse probably over 20 times now and am still enjoying the progression of motifs and sonic themes. Lapalux (aka Stuart Howard) created this project inspired by ideas of the amniotic sac, creation and the universe. Pretty grandiose ideas, but he’s not claiming he has the answers. Stuart’s goal was to create an album where the evolution of these ideas was explored in a consistent flowing narrative. “For me the real focus was that the whole record flowed,” he says. ”I worked on each song sequentially and wouldn’t stop working on a session until they fitted together and told the story that I wanted to tell.”

The first track “Oblivion” opens as an introduction into the world the album inhabits. The sounds used here persist and adapt throughout. Thematically, this opener is the primordial ooze from which the album grows. Shifting into the next track, “Voltaic Acid”, the drums are introduced. The beat is volatile, unstable. On a first listen almost everything seems to happen at random, but the more you hear it the more you find patterns and repeated dynamics. An erratic set of drum fills will culminate in a clear hit as the beat ebbs and flows.

From track to track, motifs are repeated but are always developed. An element from a previous track will return in a more contained and precise way. “Earth” or “The Lux Quadrant” are perfect examples. The few tracks prior to both are wonkier, less predictable and could be (depending on your taste) not as enjoyable. But the introduction of new sounds or the maturation of old ones makes for a more harmonious listening experience. In particular, “Earth” becomes the perfect microcosm of the tracks prior, it’s the most single-like track on the whole album as it’s just so darn lovely.

As though the spectacular narrative, growth and flow wasn’t enough, all the other elements of the album excel. The production is so clean, nothing sounds messy or unintended. Despite being few in number, the voice samples used are impactful and never appear unless something is gained. There are well choregraphed peaks and troughs in the energy of the album, it never becomes boring. Honestly I find it hard to fault this album.

Amnioverse is the current peak of Stuart’s discography, and it seems like a pretty fitting way to finish off the first decade of his music career.