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Ital: Endgame (Planet µ)

Ital’s latest is a typically confounding amalgamation of electronic textures, minimal grooves, references to various trends, and skirting around micro-genres including IDM, techno, house, and more. Whereas his previous releases had an extra layer of surface noise and grit atop them, Endgame is more streamlined and minimal, falling closer in line with the minimal grooves of the Dial camp than the more spastic, free spirit that characterizes most Planet µ artists’ music. In fact I think with Endgame, Ital takes his hand in the direction of the severe minimalism of recent efforts by Efdemin or Marcel Dettmann, but with his own personality shining through. That Ital enlisted the help of M. Geddes Gengras on mixing and Rashad Becker for mastering is no accident; each of them displays his fine touch on Endgame, particularly in examples like the title track, where every sound fits perfectly side by side in the mix, or on the dynamic flare of “Coagulate,” with its bulbous bass throbs and ricocheting, flanged hihats and effects. Regardless of how aggressive or laid back a track is here, it’s startlingly balanced and refined compared to Ital’s previous output I’ve heard, and in this case it enhances the experience.

“Relaxer” is a strong opening, channeling the spirit of Detroit through its sweeping pads but with its rhythm section neutered of bass until well over halfway through. Instead it gasps with sidechain compression until a lighter, more crisp electro break comes in gradually, supplying the much anticipated low-end. In contrast to some more EBM-tinged, darker moments like “White II” or “Coagulate” is the understated elegance of “Beacon” or “Black Dust” which pulse with a lighter touch that I’d associate with Efdemin’s most recent album Decay. But in general nothing has some of the same coarseness that a previous Ital release like Dream On had; only the most active parts of “Whispers in the Dark” starts to approach that for me, but even still its wilder side has been tamed. And this may sound like damning praise, but I find Endgame to be his most focused and tightly produced effort I’ve heard to date. It’s solid start to finish, well worth a listen for fans of forward-thinking instrumental techno.

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