Stephen Hummel – Meld
By: Brett Spaceman
Refreshment comes in many guises – a lungfull of clean mountain air. a long, tall drink of water or a giddying electro-dreampop record.
Stephen Hummel steps out from his long term guise, subtractiveLAD to deliver a fresh, exciting slant to his music. Having forged his reputation with ambient leaning, downtempo, compositional IDM (not exclusively, but to give you a marker) Meld sees a shift towards accessible pop. It seems interesting that this side project, for want of a better term, goes out under Hummel’s own name. It’s as if he is saying subLAD is what I do, but this is what I am. Maybe I’m reading far too much into that? What the Hell. Speculation is fun.
And so is Meld. As already mentioned this is pop – accessible, instantaneous, attention-grabbing pop. And Hummel manages the trick that other acts rarely pull off, which is to make a hook-laden pop-song that you don’t tire of after repeat listens. This stuff is sweet, but never cloying as evidenced by opening track ‘Phoenix’. I don’t know about rising from the ashes. This Phoenix catapults the record to stratospheric heights. The song is up there with the best of Maps, it’s chorus a joyous rush –_“Hey you. Come on now”_ – Okay, the words are straight out of the Spiritualised Electric Mainline school of lyrics, but come on, it’s summer! ‘Away’ shifts us, well, away from Maps to M83 territory while ‘Birds’ has a europop vibe that prompts thoughts of Giorgio Moroder
Meld gets a bit quieter toward its centre. ‘Sunshine’ meanders somewhat, then ‘Glorious’ puts me in mind of entering a Monastery, dying, and ascending to heaven. Get wings, wear wings, fly. But we’re boogieing again with ‘Beautiful’, its blazing guitars adding a New Order sheen to the sythpop.
One of us – Hummel or myself, must have a Vangelis obsession. I never seem able to finish a subtractiveLAD review (and I’ve done about five) without mentioning the electronic pioneer. The start of ‘Forever’ has a hint of the V word, ‘Resolve’ more so with a twinkly, cosmic, Blade Runner esque soundscape. This could easily be a subLAD piece but then again Hummel IS subLAD. His early training was jazz, then he went on to IDM, including bespoke designed instruments within his work. I think he made six or seven albums so we cannot say that he is influenced by M83, LCD Soundsystem, Ulrich Schnauss et al. Yet he made a record to stand alongside such contemporaries. It’s like he’s saying, “I can do that too”. And so this time around his epic, one hour plus IDM symphonies have given way to verse/chorus electropop.
Well ladies and gentlemen, sometimes simplicity is genius.