Hailing from Manchester, the ever ethereal and industriously intuitive dBridge always manages to capture a mood with his music and this offering from 2018 is no different. Seamlessly bringing together the sounds of soothing synths and industrial techno across a range of genres, from drum and bass to the avant-garde, dBridge adds yet another feather to the Manchester electronic music scene’s already garlanded headdress.
Even with the likes of the great and forever missed Marcus Intalex doing similar audio alchemy dBridge has always managed to set himself apart from the crowd, switching styles, speeds and sensations to make a rich and deep album for us to get lost in.
A Love I Can’t Explain is described as dBridge “making music for himself”. As his first album in ten years he explained his new freedom in creation as he finds himself at a new period of life; one containing marriage and fatherhood. Maybe this then can be seen as the reason for some of the darker apparitions on ALICE (I was unable to find out if this was a reference to his new child, but one could think so). The first half of the album is dominated by lumbering drums that hide and secret the songs like vines in a rainforest. Primitive and tribal, the low rumblings and synth lines linger, almost uncomfortably but they are just energetic enough to move you along. This is not a criticism of the songs themselves, rather a testimony to the atmosphere dBridge manages to gather into his creations; as if the songs have such gravity that they have drawn in this atmosphere all by themselves.
With the first tune on the album, dBridge sets us up for the ensuing journey. The mystical, floating line of Gen 19 quickly transforms into a grumbling head-bobber as the distinctive percussive elements of the Mancunian producer come into play (if you like this check out his Dead Peak release). It puts me in mind of a techno interpretation of birth, sort of like a minimalistic Intro to Biggie’s Ready To Die.
The creepily unsettling Broadcast Pain that follows is clearly a comment on the effects of social media upon the masses and the mind. With a backbone of chugging tentativeness, fleshed out with a ghostly ambience and topped off with audio from a conversation about the rise of social media, it all matches perfectly to give what I would (un)happily describe as an accurate audio interpretation of George Orwell’s 1984.
As the album progresses, the sunlight of synths begins to dapple onto some songs bringing warmth and harmony. The ever-pounding-forward Monitored Meanings gives us our first hint of this warmth and leads into the atmospheric They Loved featuring the vocals of Poison Arrow. The percussive producing style of dBridge really comes into play at this part of the album. His love of hardware shines through as he creates captivating rhythms from equipment and pedals that are so interconnected through cables and wires, they practically form an ecosystem in his studio.
But with the noise of a baby being born, the final theme of the album comes in. The synths take over and the melodies sweep in under the tribalism to carry you away to yet another place within this great album. This is no better demonstrated than with the gorgeous Wiz Zijn (meaning We Are in Dutch). I don’t really know what to say about this song, other than it always manages to pull an emotion out of me no matter what. As UK producer Sam Binga once said, “every time this comes on in the car I have to pull over”. The constant treading of the beat (I think a conscious theme through the album), the soaring synth line, the harmony between the soft featherings of the low end and the main melodies.
It all comes together to make an undeniably emotional piece of electronic music, which sums up dBridge to me as a producer. His ability to squeeze emotion out of electronic equipment has always impressed me. Sure, Carlos Santana and his guitar could create enough emotion from just one note to send a whole bus full of grandmothers wailing in lamentation, but to produce a landscape of texture the way dBridge does with a computer takes a lot of skill and sculpting… as someone who likes to say he dabbles with producing music, I have the utmost respect for the way dBridge can manipulate and construct his percussive lines, wrapping them in melody and padding it out with atmosphere. While this album may have signalled a change of life-view for dBridge, it shows that the producer is showing no signs of slowing down.