On this spell binding display of up-tempo funk fuelled Techno, New York multi-instrumentalist Tara Rogers reminds us of her endless talents as sublimity and beautiful feelings wash over us with all the rhythm in the world.
Electronic music comes to us in a myriad of forms, and the rich tapestry which we have available to us seems like a blessing that never gives up, such is the continual sense of evolution in sound that has graced record shops, nightclubs, lounges and sunsets for the past 40 or so years. We understand and explore how the contemporary interchanges reflect the seismic forces that operated in the past, how the connections and networks converged with one another to create morphologies that still ring true to this day, in the form of artists who continually strive to further their own depth of field. To find a voice through an audial identity is always crucial for any musician, and within Electronic Music it is often how the sonics being presented help to convey language, mood or tone that helps us to connect to a record, and this in turn helps us to see exactly what the artist was aiming for. We dive headfirst into a pool of wonderment, where sparkling lights and simmering keys purposefully overlay themselves across rich intoxicating rhythms, with a keen ear focused on the subtle transitions and movements that indicate a shift in direction or style. Many artists have dedicated themselves to the notion of being somewhat hard to pin down with their style, but very consistent with the emotions that they channel within their works, and this attitude helps to create a strong sense of diversion that feels very natural indeed. By utilising techniques and melodic overlays as a guide, the possibilities to explore not just the rhythmical but the emotional potential of an audial palette is staggering, and it provides an artist the ability to always bring forth something new and exciting every single time. Be it traversing across a experimental space, or a full and vibrant ambient soundscape, or a full on Techno odyssey, we become ensnared in the momentum of it all, with a swing from left to right that never quits and always serves up some richness for us to get really involved within. It's a testament to a number of qualities within these kinds of artists that produces such narratives to come forth, and perhaps the most pertinent are the artistic visions that allow for dynamism to come forth, and also the technical application of these visions which only allows for a broader scope to be explored. We feel involved within the world being presented, a wide reaching universe which expands as new releases come to the surface, a continual sense of additions that will forever make us feel like there is always more around the corner. Electronic music comes in many shapes and forms, and to harness those forms within a singular narrative is highly impressive, and as a story it reads exceptionally well in all it's shapes and forms, with the beauty being that no matter where you dip your toe, something new will always present itself. Variations will always stand out as something significant, but it's how you handle these fluctuations that remains key, and for some artists this ability remains very much at the forefront of moving things onwards and upwards. The kind of music that remains very much at the backs of our minds, it's collectivised brilliance working wonders on the mind, body and soul, an eye to the past but one firmly fixated on the future, and that is something we can all get behind.
One artist who certainly has an incredible story to tell is D.C based multi-instrumentalist, academic and audio engineer Tara Rodgers, who has not only blended her technical knowledge within the music she makes, but has added an intellectual layer into her sound and the wider discourse about music in general. Looking at her academic background, Rodgers holds multiple degrees - including a P.H.D in Communication studies - and this background provides an incredible basis for the music she makes and the influence it has on communities around the globe. Alongside her many published articles, her most well known book, 'Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound', which was published in 2010, features 24 interviews with women artists and discusses their histories, techniques and the role of gender in their work, and highlights the work of women, their role in the development of dance and electronic music, and perhaps most importantly provides an alternative voice to the male centric discourse that is prevalent throughout it's history. The book interweaves itself with the amazing content and work found on the Pink Noises website, which Rodgers founded in 2000 as a promotional tool/space for women artists and as a resource for women to get into production and DJing, and to this day still serves this incredibly important role. These factors help to provide a background to the intersect that Rodgers works at, and when you start to listen to her own productions, her role in the wider Electronic Music conservation only starts to shine brighter as a focal point between discussion, community and music. Rodgers seems to apply the same amount of thought to the way she crafts tracks as she does with her writing and activism, with a slew of genres being explored, meshed together and multiplied to enormous success throughout her work. The vibe moves from free flowing artistic inspired soundscapes to ambient tinged soundscapes, through to razor sharp but intuitive and beautifully thought out Techno, her style as mentioned in the intro simply floats along following an invisible thread, spreading itself out wherever it feels the need to. Rodgers blends her musical talents with a vision that knows no bounds and sees no uncrossable horizon line, simply a space that can be traversed and assimilated into her beautiful universe. Not only does Rodgers blend traditional genre stylings and techniques together, but she has always explored how differing hardware can be utilised to further forward her work, with the results of these experiments representing a beautiful pairing of technology, human thought and a every open vision. From her many works, there is plenty of excellence to highlight, with the first piece to highlight being the 30 minute long 'Resolutions' composition, which was released in 2012 and comprises of Rodger's voice speaking pixel data from a digital photograph; the beautifully layered and considered 'Magnus Harmonica' piece, which consists of sounds made from old toy organs, which was released in 2004; the wonderfully digitised language that abounds from the 'Sonic Panoramas' record, which consists of recording colour data from urban environments and converting it into digital formats, which the record arriving in 2013; the lush and delicate intricacies that formulate within the 'Butterfly Effects' record, which arrived in 2007; the jazzy tones that punctuate through the delightful 'Ocean State' record, which landed in 2007 also; the diverse as hell '4 Bars to Infinity' mixtape, which covers pretty much all facets of Rodger's intriguing sound, which landed in 2017; the utterly gorgeous 'Upper Limits of Normal' album, which originally landed in 98 but got reissued in 2020; and finally, the long, beautiful and winding jam that is the 'spacetime frequency departure portal', which also landed last year. In all, Rodger's work is hard to pin down in terms of compartmentalising her academic work, her musical outputs, and her dedication to providing resources for women in music, because it all intermingles into this incredibly significant movement, one that Rodgers remains the head of and oversees it's development with a keen eye and an even keener vision. Everything she does has meaning and purpose, no matter that it might be, and this has left a legacy forged in stone, highlighting both her incredible efforts to highlight and champion women in dance music, but also her contributions to the art of dance music, it's meaning, and it's sense of direction. Her tunes reflect this ever relevant quest to understand electronic music, and the end results are simply gorgeous, timeless and contextually relevant. Be sure to check out her previous works, the amazing Pink Noise website, and maybe even grab a copy of her book - we certainly will be doing so - and take a dive into a world where academia, empowerment and music co-exist in progressive harmony.
And now we arrive at her latest effort, 'Dimensions', the latest record to arrive under the Analog Tara alias, with the record being released by the D.C based 1432 R imprint. Rodgers has reserved her more techno leaning style to this name, with a number of excellent records being released under the name, which included 2018's 'Fundimentals' and 'sketches with piano + analog noise', and 2020s 'Synthetic Fields', with these records being knitted together a number of Rodgers' overarching themes, such as engaging melodies and modest yet powerfully hitting sequences which all amount to a bountiful picture being presented to us. It's music made to the highest order, with a lot of care and attention placed on the little details which populate the universe, as Rodgers combines her abilities and vision to great effect, and this new record is absolutely no different. From the word go we are greeted with succulent drumming patterns, intriguing melodic blemishes, crystal clear densities, and a incredible outline of elements, feelings and emotions that guide us through from one structure to the next. It's a world that remains so inviting, and we just need to take hold the hand being extended towards us, and away we go.....
Up first comes 'Undecagon', and this one begins with the kicks and the light repeating rhythm to get things going. The pulse moves along with a real sense of intent, as claps, hats and other lines of inquiry emerge from within to keep the momentum going on strong, as the repeating note keeps us immersed with the feeling as time passes by. Densities are added to with fuzzy solid like notes that ride the crest of the wave up above, and before long the vocals come into view, their presence arriving like a breath of fresh air atop the exceedingly engaging underbelly of the track, immediately becoming a focal point for the track to take dips down and up in energy. The kicks do exactly that as they remove themselves to provide space for the music to build itself up again once more, with this feature arriving again but this time the vocals lead the way into the climax, and it just works so beautifully. It's all in the subtleties on this one, the manner in which elements fall away before regrouping, then dissipating into the membranes before coming back into view one final time - it's all just so glorious, and really sets the tone for things to come. Up next comes 'Heat Lightning', and this one begins with the hats and claps to get us going. The initial outline of these elements is incredibly dynamic, implying that all the spaces we find inbetween are going to be filled with some wonderful things indeed, and this feeling is confirmed as the lightest of notes permeates through on the right hand side and the acid line then emerges underneath. The heralding of the kicks lifts everything up into the clouds, as a gentle singular chord then multiplies into a beautiful sequence that moves from the highs towards the lows and back again, with plenty of scope given to the spaces inbetween the chords for further elements to slide into view. The track then climaxes ever so slightly in a plateau kind of manner, with everything kind of moving into a saunter as the kicks drop out, before sliding back into the picture with a beautiful sense of progression, as the vocals align themselves with the top layers once more. The chord sequence comes back to remind us of the emotional value of this track, and this is when the first proper transition comes into view as the drumming structure switches things up beautifully into this dense half time swing kind of feel, with the kicks arriving to bring us back to a certain level of hype. Beautifully considered, this one.
Up next comes 'Strawberry Moon', and this one begins with the low frequency kicks and high end hats to get us going. As a few bars pass us by, the key line moves right through the middle, displaying a wonderful level of morphology as the wavelengths flicker and shift in the moonlight, moving on two layers in many ways as we glide right through the heart of it all. The depth of the drums that come through underneath to match the swirling melodics is glorious, a match made in heaven that you simply cannot say no too, as Rodgers then switches between this deconstructed chapter break style before sliding back into a powerful new segment. The way in which the drums, keys and bass all weave amongst one another in this cut is magical, with the transitions pulled off brilliantly as we simply take a step back and admire all that transpires in front of us, with load of ingenious additions being made across the board to keep us totally engaged. Mesmerising to the max. To wrap things up, we have 'Golden Hour Life On Mars', and this one begins with the high line synths to get us going. Their presence is solid and uninterrupted, a golden embrace that illuminates the room with it's warmth and beauty, and ,before long it is joined by the kicks and the repeating synth lines to get us going, as the swells and dynamics keep growing and growing with each passing moment. The claps and hats that arrive during this ascent add further weight and flavour, as background swells keep fuelling our euphoria, and before long the kicks come away to reveal the first of many key sequences to grace this gorgeous track. The arpeggio serves and grooves through the spaces before lifting off into the next sequence with such intent, as the pads move away to reveal the power of the drums and the key lines, and it's so, so good. The pads tentatively return to the fold, their reintroduction working very well in the context as we transcend one final time, our experience delivered and constructed to a T by a musician completely in control of their vision, and we cannot recommend it enough to anyone. Pure class from start to finish.
There's an inherent feeling which runs through Tara Rodgers' music, a feeling that is perhaps best described by the need to inject meaning and purpose into everything she releases. Her abstract and creative soundscapes reflected a new way of seeing, her Jazz leaning work helped to further the discourse around the genre and it's present day status, and her Techno leaning work is widely celebrated as being flawlessly put together and filled to the brim with ideas. Need we say any more? but we shall, because on reflection this new record under the Analog Tara name is exceptional, and simply builds upon the excellence of her existing discography and multiplies the best facets of her work. The gracious build up, the brilliant layerings, the impeccable grooves and the emotionally driving transitions, there's so much here to unpack, delve within and understand from both a technical and compositional point of view, and this is very much a feeling that will have you coming back to Rodgers' music time and time again. One of the EPs of the year, for sure.
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