Minor Science – Second Language Review

After a bunch of singles and EPs and years of djing in clubs across Europe, Angus Finlayson aka Minor Science has become a well known figure in the underground electronic music scene. His long awaited debut album, Second Language, is finally out via the London-based techno label Whities, and it’s definitely worth a careful listen.

Finlayson, who is also a music journalist, takes the title from a reflection about language and translation, perhaps personally experienced as a native English speaker living in Berlin; however carefully you try, a translation will never mean the exact same as the original. Developing this idea in a playful way, he quotes Samuel Beckett, who, when asked why he wrote in French, stated “parce que en français c’est plus facile d’écrire sans style” (“because in French it’s easier to write without style”). The record’s cover features a limestone tablet carved with that brilliant answer, but translated in German.

Leaving aside abstract concepts and personal references, we can find the same genuine fascination towards language and translation in Minor Science’s productions, albeit the focus is on musical styles rather than spoken language. With roots planted in the imagination of the ’90s, Minor Science tries to translate the classic club beats and UK sounds into the frame of the digital age.

Following the footsteps of his previous productions, Second Language is extremely detailed, with complex textures and layers that elegantly collide. Debunking a cliché, Finlayson makes dance music that combines visceral, apparently repetitive rhythmic patterns with continuous deviations and brilliant details: almost every bar in each track is different from the previous one. It is an unconventional, anarchic, remarkable approach that distinguishes him from many other producers.

But even more, his sound design is remarkable. Though full of hi-speed beats, pumped uptempo bass and energetic drums, Second Language never sounds heavy or excessively intense. A state of grace pervades the album, a sense of chilling lightness that survives even in the most chaotic rave moments. The lack of distortion, thoughtful use of reverb, and the choice of spacey synths create an uncommon atmosphere. Melodies are a key element: starting from the epic intro, he distances himself from the most common rhythmic, tuneless productions: a sort of declaration of intent, a preamble to hypnotizing, gorgeous melodies.

The second track, “Balconies”, is an unconventional club track, a kind-of-footwork moving forward imperviously, though switching the beat unpredictably. “Polyglottal” instead is a funny and groovy electro mind-blower. In other parts of the album, the BPM increases, like on “Gone Rouge” a high-speed rave track, with a straightforward kick and fizzing, baroque melodies supporting an accelerating groove.

“Far Want Of Gelt” marks one of the more outstanding moments of the album. Surrounded by spacey synths and hi-speed basses, it is a d’n’b track that makes you lose your mind and crazily explodes in a final messy drum solo. The following “Blue Deal”, featured as the lead single, maintains the dreamy atmosphere of the previous track. The flow builds up over simple melodies, continuously struggling through cuts and glitches that make it not at all boring, even more when silences or horns’s short appearances leave you astonished.

With Second Language, Minor Science stretches the lines of his brilliant productions. With a shrewd attention to detail and sound design, he makes dance music that sounds different from any other, and experiments with uncommon solutions that define his own personal style.

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