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Watchword for 2014 so far is 'Soulful'. With that in mind, and cloaked in a Catalonian gloaming, Barcelona's Downliners Sekt have dredged up a Now-ish patchwork quilt of smart mutant garage.

In the grand old tradition of countless other downbeat, sub-driven two steppers, every snare hit and crisp-packet rustle on Silent Ascent is prematurely trimmed and speckled with the glitchy whip-cracks of a robotic hairdresser. The overall impression is of a sound collage assembled from off cuts of Burial, Jon Hopkins and Rounds-era Four Tet. It is resolutely 'Now', in the early-nineties referencing mode of so much contemporary electronica.

'Soul Debris' includes a cute, down tuned spoken word narration alongside its melange of shimmering electronics, and walks through an episodic structure that is reminiscent of a live mix. At 8 minutes plus, it's a bold statement to start with, and one that could easily fall down. Fortunately, there's endless fun to be had picking out the barely concealed precursors that are jumbled up just beneath the surface. The title-track follows a similar pattern, with sound field distortion, platelets of meandering organ and low resolution clicks and boofs (in my mind, a boof is kind of like a turned off snare which has almost become a tom).

Then 'This American Life' begins, and suddenly there is urgency and life and, rarest of all in dance music, humour. This song is actually funny. Downliners love an unexpected intrusion - the album is full of rude, disquieting moments locked into the otherwise smooth pattern - and on 'This American Life' they manage to shock and disorientate equally. Suddenly the group are masters of their own art. 'Hors Phase' even out-Heckers Tim Hecker, with an arrhythmic swirl of echoing noise. The shorter tracks are often the most pleasing because for all their randomness they have a certain ramshackle charm.

Unfortunately, too much of Silent Ascent doesn't quite achieve the same level of clarity. The archness of 'Eiger Dreams' is so pronounced as to make it barely impact - a sample from Drive just about sums up the blank faced chain bar aesthetic it recalls. The sample actually fits the context of the track, but taking a key moment from a huge, cult-ishly popular star vehicle (one which boasts a soundtrack possibly better than the film itself) and shoving it in apparently at random doesn't do justice to the track or the film. In the long mid-stretch, too much feels like a live wig-out, rather than the tightly arranged compositions that make up a third or so of the album. I've never bought the argument that it doesn't matter how long most dance tracks are, or that they exist in some plain separate to the aesthetics of other styles of music. Repetition is deeply ingrained in all forms of music, as is the requirement to grow and to achieve a sense of narrative.

Silent Ascent is a largely welcoming album of melancholic garage and downtempo beats, occasionally enlivened by offbeat samples and interesting atmospherics. It certainly isn't revolutionary, but has enough about it to keep fans of its peers interested.

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