Ataxon – Beautiful Melancholy
If Beautiful Melancholy came out a year after its 1 September 2015 release date, it’d probably have been associated with the “ghost tech” subgenre – a type of cyberpunk music influenced by dreampunk and hardvapour that artist Halo Acid once called “dance music for introverts”. This hour-long release incorporates the aesthetics of house music, vaporwave, chiptune, and IDM with influences ranging from Telefon Tel Aviv to Hayao Miyazaki.1 Most tracks are decidedly downtempo with percussion closer to the IDM/house influence than vaporwave; most of the vaporwave tag comes by way of association, as Retrotech mostly released ECCOJAMS and classic-style in its (very limited) run.
Track composition is relatively simple, with focus on single phrases or pieces of electronic music that gradually evolve with additional or faster beats. Tracks are brought to a climax in a way that Retrotech consciously solicited from artists in 2015 to set themselves aside from the ambient-driven dreampunk aesthetic. The production is slightly compressed, which becomes apparent on the louder moments of songs (e.g. “Pastel”). There are a few ambient bits, as on the back-to-back “Winter Hearts I” and “Winter Hearts II”, the latter of which being the choice track with its shifting-sands distortion that gradually gives way to a mid-tempo four-on-the-floor house beat.
Beautiful Melancholy is a long release, and several tracks could have been cut to facilitate a smoother run-time without sacrificing quality. “Please Stop Time” uses very similar beats, reverb, and airy synths as “Long Drive Home”, which is the stronger track. “Her” is a pretty pseudo-ambient piece that incorporates sparkling electronics, but it comes late in the album and only one track after the double-ambient punch of “Winter Hearts I/II”.
Overall, Beautiful Melancholy is a simple album of house-music-by-way-of-vaporwave that could use some additional refinement in the future to keep from being too bloated. Sixty-three minutes of listening is a lot for any artists, but especially ambient and house music. More focus on more compact tracks (and perhaps simply fewer songs) can remedy this. Recommended for fans of the labels Opal Tapes, Tekres, and Hemlock.
1. All Around You – (2:21)
2. Coke Bottle Kiss – (3:48)
3. Beautiful Melancholy – (6:18)
4. Please Stop Time – (5:42)
5. Warm Inside – (4:31)
6. Softly Glowing – (3:03)
7. Always – (4:50)
8. Pastel – (8:38)
9. Winter Heart I – (4:24)
10. Winter Heart II – (6:26)
11. Long Drive Home – (6:06)
12. Her – (4:35)
13. I Don’t Want to Let Go – (3:15)
1Foreman, Parker. “Ataxon – Beautiful Melancholy – Review and Artist Profile”. Retrotech Sounds. Published 15 September 2015. Accessed 9 January 2018. Retrieved from: https://retrotechsounds95.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/a-beautiful-melancholy-review-and-artist-profile/