Even though it’s likely that analogue synthesizers are even more popular now than in their supposed heyday, it’s still difficult not to associate their sound with another era. Fortunately, the Toronto synth duo of Mike Smith and Jonathan Adjemian don’t let that get in the way of their originality. In fact, if their debut together—one of three inaugural releases on All-Set—is any indication, they downright relish coy flirtation with the historical sonic dimension.
There’s a pronounced inclination toward groove on these six tracks. It’s funky but in a way that’s rectangular and asexual, trading any raunch for a childlike friskiness.
The jovial mien, the tautness of electronic percussion and bass, and the two-dimensional sense of sonic space are likely to recall Cluster’s leaner, more upbeat moments. Yet the gooey asymmetry of the melodies that ooze from this foundation tug the ear away from such stable reference points. Many of the tracks flow like jazz tunes, too: head, improvisation, head. These elusive middle sections steer clear of fiery solos and instead bear witness to gently awry unspoolings that erode the underlying stiffness.
Transcombobulation may carry a strong aroma of a particular technological era, but its music was clearly made from a current aural vantage point. It’s as though Smith and Adjemian have applied the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics to music history. In some of their adjacent worlds, Annette Peacock joined Tonto’s Expanding Head Band on keys, Herbie Hancock scored an Atari game, and Giorgio Moroder heard the first Syrinx album (and loved it).