Electronic music has evolved and splintered into about a million subgenres since Karlheinz Stockhausen started messing around with wires and primitive tone generators in the Fifties. Style Encoding, the debut album from Seattle-based producer Tom "Codebase" Butcher, traces a chart that flows from Stockhausen through Kraftwerk, Bambaataa-esque electro, Detroit house, U.K. synth-pop, Orb-style ambient house, and, ultimately, to any number of trance artists who have hypnotized dance floors over the past decade.
Okay, so Butcher's not exactly trying to reinvent the electronic wheel, but he is deft enough to fuse yesterday's sounds into something seamless, unfailingly melodic, and plenty satisfying for club kids and headphone geeks alike. The lead track, "Collapse," conspicuously tips its cap to old-school electro with its handclap rhythms, bubbly synth lines, and an underlying interplanetary vibe. That segues into perhaps the album's best song, "Stripmine-2," an enthralling industrial-disco groove formed from throbbing bass, insistent hi-hats, and an emphatically bouncy keyboard melody pulsating above ominous ambient modulations. "Seek and Destroy" pulls the techno-house tempo back a bit, though not quite enough to usher you into the chillout room, while the fluid bass lines, vocoders, and lush, seductive sequences of "Sharpshooter" and "Cascade View" pay serious homage to Power, Corruption and Lies-era New Order.
Style Encoding does lose a bit of steam toward the end, as Butcher regurgitates ideas on "Bells" and "Stint" that he had explored on previous tracks in far more compelling ways. But if you want a quick survey course of the past 30-odd years of electronic music, you could do a lot worse than this.
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