A low, tense synth hums into focus in the first minute of Dwell. For the rest of German producer Lorenz Brunner’s new album, that sound will linger—a tremulous glimmer that haunts these sparse dance tracks. The album’s 11 songs mark a high point in a career that Brunner has spent spiraling endlessly inward. Recondite has always excelled at noir atmospheres where synths blink out like neon lights, but on Dwell he strips the sound to its gloomiest and most intimate essence.
As you adjust to Dwell’s inky darkness, its small gestures gain even more power. That’s especially true on both “Mirror Games” and lead single “Cure,” where brittle drum machines and a plaintive synth melodies spiral in fragile orbit in an otherwise silent vacuum. Even the powerful ambient piece “Interlude 2” finds an emotional resonance in the softly buzzing drone of what turns out to be an electric toothbrush Brunner overheard his wife using.
While these sharp, minimal techno tracks echo early ‘90s pioneers like Robert Hood, there’s a dystopian quality to Dwell that’s surprisingly indebted to video games of the same era, when composers matched darker sounds to the more complex and mature stories afforded by the leap to 16-bit graphics. “Surface” and “Nobilia” are dotted with eerily organic synths that recall Kenji Yamamoto’s legendarily alien Super Metroid score (the latter takes its name from a city of ancient ruins in the sci-fi RPG Secret Of Evermore). The connection grows even more explicit on the grim, mysterious “Moon Pearl,” named after an item in Legend Of Zelda lore that allows its wearer to retain their human form in the shadowy “Dark World.” In a larger sense, that is Dwell’s greatest strength: it’s a tour through Recondite’s darkest realms but it never loses its human touch.