Jon E Alpha – Hierarchical Multiuser E.P.

First up, Joe’s rules of reviewing:

1. I only review free music
2. I only review stuff I like.
Why put energy into hating on music someone has shared with the world for free?
3. I don’t reference other artists.
This is just a challenge to make it more fun for me, although I might work around it with with some cryptic crossword clue skillz.

Jon E Alpha – Hierarchical Multiuser E.P.
When Mike (Darkfloor) first gave me the Bandcamp link for Jon E Alpha‘s Hierarchical Multiuser E.P., my first impression of the title had me recalling the rash of generic post-Detroit electro that filled my hard disk in the early 2000s. A quick read of the blurb that came with it reassured me that this is a glorious British piss-take. So is the music as whimsical as the concept? Yes and no…

This is shameless, rowdy dancefloor misbehaviour rather than an Open University course in sound design, but there definitely an intelligence, or maybe an instinct, about how the tracks are structured and arranged. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me that these tracks were recorded live, but by someone who knows his craft.

The EP opens with ‘Mollusc‘, racketsports in the forest somewhere between electro, breaks and dnb. Nice gliding synths, angry 12-bit tambourines and massive snare-rush laser-fight near the end. Second up, ‘You‘, is a four-to-the-floor banger with a nice evolving synth arpeggio. Third, ‘Nu Life‘, is not a Depeche Mode cover (as far as I can tell), but does pair up a gritty electro beat with a tight early-90s sounding galloping bass. Flangey sections and ravey strings contribute to a sweaty basement atmosphere.

My favourite track is probably ‘EB n Flow‘, where the beats take on a more Caribbean flavour and the heavy clipped bass pauses only for the occasional sweet, dubby vocal. I wish this one was longer. Track five, ‘Loco‘ is built upon an uneasy garage shuffle. The rude tambourine makes a return, over some nice swirling stabby chords and trippy timestretched speech. Alpha closes things with ‘Recharge‘, which is the most dense-sounding track with sharp chords clashing against a resonant synth bass. Intense, playful, malicious, delicious!

A general feature I like is that almost every track ends really abruptly, almost a deliberate attempt to catch out the daydreaming DJ. None of the tracks is by any means polite, but none outstays its welcome.

A final note for production nerds is that Hierarchical Multiuser is a fine example of excess mastering compression used as a creative tool. People talk about the rights and wrongs in the ‘loudness wars’ and dynamic range as if it were a science. Sometimes compressing the hell out of music just works. This is one such time.

Jon E Alpha – Hierarchical Multiuser E.P.


Jon E Alpha – Mollusc
Jon E Alpha – You
Jon E Alpha – Nu life
Jon E Alpha – EB n flow
Jon E Alpha – Loco
Jon E Alpha – Recharge


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