The very notion of IDM is to devalue everything that came before it, and Controlled Hallucination is a throwback to this period of exponential growth in the post-rave landscape, as publications like Mixmag sought validation of the new genre in the face of the Criminal Justice Bill. Portsmouth’s electronic auteur The Gasman attempts to exploit a missing link between the two eras. Even the title is a nod to the dippy student ramblings of the era. But that’s ok, dance music evolves like mountains, inch by inch with only occasional seismic shifts and Controlled Hallucination is very much of a time when the pills were still good. To this end the producer often favours upbeat, high-pitch and trancey effects with synthetic beats, nary an organic module in earshot. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of tectonic lift or occasional tsunamis of sound. ‘Rotorn’’s muffled but manic synths wouldn’t sit as comfortably back then as they do now while ‘Tic 3000’ is a genuinely challenging extension of deep house. There are only occasional samples like those favoured by the likes of Plaid and Boards of Canada, and no added vocals anywhere, our creator preferring the full gamut of synthesized sounds instead.
Incredibly, since signing to Planet Mu in 2003 this is The Gasman’s nineteenth album and his second for Onomatopoeia Records, after 2016’s 80s-inflected Aeriform, and it is perhaps the logical progression from that record. Spread across four sides and sixteen tracks, this release continues the skittering beats and themes of restlessness although side B, in particular, is noticeably more ambient, with only occasional darker interludes (‘Retention’’s disjointed runout certainly has no place in a chill-out room while ‘Cessation’ stops just short of Future Sound of London territory, but is still two-minutes of beatless euphoria). There are also periods of unexpected chin-stroking experimentation. ‘Wizards Sleeve’ is piano led, the beat only coming in at the five-minute mark and again pushing the boundaries of what can be classed as house music.
However, with musical deviations such as a church organ track that hardly dips into the IDM discipline at all, it’s difficult to tell if these are wilful transgressions or half-realised neo-classical ideas. In fact the second half of this record relies too much on Jean Michel Jarre influenced keyboard flourishes extended to five minutes and beyond, albeit in nuanced retro futurism, that conjure a man in a lab coat hunched over a vintage Yamaha a la Tomorrow’s World. Ironically the tried and tested formulas work best on Controlled Hallucination so the textbook arpeggios of ‘Torse Low’, motorik trance of ‘Anti Notice’ and the title track’s ascending peaks are still highlights and well worth investing the time to give Controlled Hallucination a listen.
Controlled Hallucination is out on 9th November through Onomatopoeia Records.