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Serial Human

Artist: Esem

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  Essential Esem purchase!!

| | See all Retrodreaming's reviews (14)

Serial Human is Bulgarian George Marinov's second album, this time released by Merck Records. Those expecting a natural progression from his Enveloped album on DeFocus are in for a shock. With only a few exceptions, Serial Human explores altogether darker terrain than Enveloped. Glittering washes and percussion are replaced by jagged, metallic synths that reverberate and resonate with menace.

Like its predecessor, Serial Human has an extremely strong opening that sums up in one track everything that is to follow. In this case it is the robotic "Tjiccli," a far more dance floor friendly track than Esem has put out before. "Tjiccli" is full of nervous energy, neon synths and a dark but instantly memorable melodic backbone that builds to a powerful, searing climax making this one of the most essential Esem tracks ever.

Serial Human contrasts with its predecessor notably, however, in its structure and coherence. This album has a much more obvious narrative structure and theme than Enveloped and thus, despite the chasms that separate the musical styles on offer here the album flows wonderfully. Following on from the first track are the luxurious, pulsing loops of "Cee" and the glittering, space-travel soundtrack "Bleece," both of which feature the more familiar, trademark warmth, complexity and emotional character of Esem's earlier work. These two full-bodied tracks blend together seamlessly. Then comes the shock. Almost a soon as the album has begun, "Swift Urban Departure From What Was Once An Innocent Soul" heralds a dark interlude - a complete shift in tone of the music, to one entirely in keeping with the title. The sound of a tram arriving and departing from a station is swiftly followed by chilly, echoing drips of harsh, metallic percussion which is followed immediately by "Sofiatram As I Hear It" that features three minutes of what is presumably the distorted sound of the Sofia tram rumbling by. Then it's back into Serial Human proper and a darker mood emerges, driven forward by another dance floor friendly track, "Square Lamp" with thumping, driving bass and Esem's usual gift for the considered and dramatic build-up. "Outburst Nue" is drenched in cavernous atmospheres with strikingly deep reverb that flows into "Kyves Ivrload," a genuinely creepy number that slowly distorts beyond all recognition.

Serial Human closes with the unpredictable "Tawn," which returns very much to the sound of the opening track. Beginning simply, it quickly adds layer upon layer of bleeps, stabs, spikes and clatters before slowly deconstructing itself into smoky, swirling ambience. Whereas Enveloped was a drifting, atmospheric, all encompassing and panoramically a beautiful experience, Serial Human is dramatic, severe, tense, relentless and hugely compelling. Esem's ability to stamp his mark indelibly on two such diversely themed albums is a testament to his talent and Serial Human is yet another essential Esem purchase.