System is the first full-length release in a decade by New York-based synthesizer fiend Joseph Fraioli under his Datach'i guise. Since his mid-2000s releases for the now defunct Sublight label, Fraioli has devoted much time to his award-winning audio design company, Jafbox Sound, which has provided sound for numerous advertisements, television programs, and short films. Fraioli had spent years building up a modular synthesizer setup, posting several demonstration videos online. Aaron Funk (Venetian Snares), another IDM veteran who had become enamored with modular synths, was excited by Fraioli's work and expressed interest in releasing a new Datach'i album on his Timesig imprint. As with all of Datach'i's albums, System shows a significant growth from his previous releases, yet it stays true to his unique, innovative vision. His production remains as detailed and technical as ever, but he continues to inject an enormous amount of spirit and sentimentality into his intense audio constructions. The tone isn't quite as innocent and childlike as on his earliest albums released by Caipirinha, nor is it quite as dark and sinister as his Planet Mu and Sublight releases during the 2000s. The album is a pretty well-rounded mixture of warm, inviting melodies and subtle humor (such as the title "Ring Worm," possibly alluding to the circuit known as the ring modulator) and darker, more alien textures. Most of the tracks have complex, skittery beats that are often doused with delay, but not quite as overloaded with scorching distortion as his earlier work. On the stunning, confounding "Omni 2," Fraioli gradually builds up sparse, touching melodies and sharp, intricate micro-beats, which progressively get weirder and more fragmented while the melodies stay calm and reserved. "Final Meta" is fast and buzzy, starting out playful before developing a more forlorn melody recalling some of the more sad, devastating moments on µ-Ziq's 1997 masterpiece, Lunatic Harness. The ultra-abrasive "Waveguiding" sounds like Confield-era Autechre with a melody written by a cinematic post-rock band like Explosions in the Sky, while the relatively calmer "Margin of Error" is closer to something Rephlex might've released. The album's 16 songs are mostly on the shorter side and many of them fade in, but they feel like considered compositions rather than just demos for expensive synthesizers. As with analog works by Venetian Snares and Somatic Responses, System finds Datach'i pushing the limits of what can be achieved with modular synthesizers. More than anything, it's a true pleasure to have one of the masters of the genre back in the game.
© Paul Simpson /TiVo