CD Review: Dirt Diamond - Styles For About A Mile

Styles For About a Mile is electronic music at its very best.
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The nostalgia cycle is a funny thing. A couple of weeks ago I spotted a piece in Rolling Stone about the top 20 albums of 1994, which they called "The year Alternative music peaked." There was another type of music that "peaked" in 1994 as well, and it is as difficult to describe today as it was then. Whatever you wish to call it though, the new album by Dirt Diamond (a.k.a. Will Green), Styles For About A Mile nails it.

The common term back then was "ambient techno," although "chill out" and IDM (intelligent dance music) were also used. There were some fantastic records made in the genre, no matter what you called it. And just about all of the bands who made them - including The Orb, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Orbital, 777, and Ultramarine, changed after '94.

Styles For About A Mile had me from the start. "Wandering Around" is the opening track, and I knew I was home the moment the laser hit the aluminum. The song has the haunting taste of something like The Orb's "Blue Room," with a melodic roam and background vocals spinning in and out of center. The drums kick up a bit, but like the best of this music, are held back until the time is right. The feel is that of an instant classic.

With "Day-Glo Nation (Parts I & II)," that initial impression is confirmed. Just about the only post-'94 record of this style that I still listen to is Fire & Water by 777, and "Day-Glo Nation" hit me the same way. The specific  track is "Gliding on Duo Tone Curves," and what "Day-Glo Nation" gets so right is the gradual building of the song over a phenomenal melody line, and some quietly insistent beats. When an artist gets it, they really have something, and this is a tremendous piece of music.

The biggest complaint I have about the "ambient techno" tag is that the music usually has very little to do with "techno" per se. The closest thing to a techno song on the album is "Output 1-2." I love the sampled "This is love" refrain against the heavy beat, but it is the instrumental fills that are the real attraction. The same holds true for "Sunday Everyday," a further venture into dance bliss.

The gorgeous "Perception of Truth" closes the set, and it is another spectacular blend. This is a form of music that has so much untapped potential, as "Perception of Truth" makes clear. Once again, the melody is incredibly compelling, and the drum beat is unobtrusive. The combination is fantastic, and I could listen to this track for hours.

In the end, I suppose that the previously mentioned groups abandoned this style for commercial reasons. Filthy lucre and all. For Dirt Diamond this is clearly no exercise in nostalgia. Styles For About A Mile is on the Scottish label Alex Tronic, who have issued a number of excellent recordings in this style over the past few years. Thanks to the brilliance of the multi-talented Will Green, Styles For About a Mile is electronic music at its very best.