Trampique – Opscope (Dark Clover, 2015)

With its suitably mysterious name, Opscope seems to be the perfect candidate as the vessel for a collection of Solar System themed electronic pieces in Alexandr Frolov’s third release under the Trampique alias. I loved the first two albums under this new moniker (both making it into my Top25 from last year) so there was certainly a sense of expectation with this one; whilst I don’t find it quite as drawing as the others it certainly feels a little more mature and refined, clinging strongly to its conceptual core as it swings its focus from one drifting celestial body to the next.

Like Face To Face it’s rather difficult not to consume or talk about this in a linear fashion as we see Trampique planet hop incrementally from one to the next; logical opener “Sun” is perhaps the most serene and celestial of all the pieces presented here, emerging on distant clatterings and hollow drones to fill the empty void with a mesmerising and inherently reverential beauty. It hovers distantly and humbly, our untouchable and fiery heart upon which we owe everything. We quickly slide into urgent Mercury’s orbit, the melodies suddenly becoming substantive and solidifying on gritty Footwork strobings blowing in off the radio fragments from the solar wind. It moves quickly, as brash and as bare as its namesake is it whips around our star, a far cry from the remaining 8 planets to come as we come to realise in “Venus”; as our attention shifts to this shrouded world things slow rapidly, ushering a more reserved and mysterious vibe in thick basslines and soft vocal coos alongside jangling accoutrements in this sumptuous and mysterious world.

We sadly say goodbye in strained synth flutters before we arrive at Earth, our home world. It’s the only time where acoustic instrumentation is clearly upheld in the faux piano tinklings and guitar noodlings assisting the thinned electronica and distal radio traffic chattering out of the glimmering orb we call home, sparkly and inviting and looked fondly upon, snippets of older pieces floating out of home-base (“Orange” being the clearest). The frontier of exploration and exciting challenges arrives in the tumbling, beat laden “Mars”, flip-flopping around its prospective and empowered central theme with a real Progressive House feel ala Sasha before returning to Future Garage roots in the almost aggressively boisterous “Jupiter” and its heady basslines, everything reflecting the enormity of its namesake and urgently churning atmosphere.

The mood dips with the other gas giants; “Saturn” still retains an imposing feel but seems gentler and less chaotic than its bigger brother, immersing itself in a similar sound but finding itself more restrained with an air of beauteous intrigue with its pale skies and iconic rings. As we move into the darker regions of the system “Uranus” succumbs to the dimming sunlight, whispering through the mix in mysterious and ethereal obfuscations, highlighting our lack of knowledge alongside the urgent and fraught “Neptune”; falling on the cusp of our solar neighbourhood the edge feels in close sight as the music pulses in intermittently dense and anxious waves of emotion, the fear of the great emptiness beyond the safe confines of home.

Finally “Pluto” arrives to bring proceedings to a close; appropriately short given its vast distance and diminutive stature it’s the last real blip on the radar before it all goes dark, and the music is strangely measured and serene as a result. The static fuzz dims quickly as we speed out of range and all of sudden the harbour of its minimalist rhythms is abruptly lost, disappearing into obscurity.

It’s an interesting and unsettled journey through our familiar celestial partners, each track tuning itself appropriately to its assigned planet and floating across genre borders in the process; it’s a little bit cluttered and meandering as a result of that, certainly not as cohesive as Face To Face nor as striking as The Voice of Colour, but it works well here since each world has its own very distinct characteristics that make such variety necessary. Expansive listening for sure.