Chicago’s Canadian Cold Front
May the next soft breeze you feel remind you of the crisp sexiness of a frigid night in the city. Better yet, here’s hoping your soundtrack for painting the town blue includes Emulsion’s latest release, Blue Sky Objective, a spare yet beautiful backdrop of sonic flurries to grace the icy core of hip cities from Reykjavik to Emulsion’s home base of Chicago.Nathan Koch, the man behind Blue Sky Objective, revels in the synthetics of the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, the album shares significant common ground with the fuzzy warmth Boards of Canada reclaims from the 1960s and 1970s. You wonder just how much Koch recognizes that, as chief among the similarities are two consecutive tracks, “Tweeism” and “New High Score,” that in name and in sound tweak well-respected BoC EPs.
Emulsion treads so lightly here with such spare arrangements that you might at times think, “Hey, even I could play that.” That leaves the album a few missteps away from bad science fiction and crime drama scores. Yet the handclap-and-high-hat atmospheres of songs like “LeftRightLeftRight” and “All Robots on Sale!” also revisit a time when the electro of Paul Hardcastle, Kraftwerk, and Laid Back could fit into rap DJ sets.
The tension in tracks like “Without” (full of video-game explosions) and “Balloons and Centipedes” (which could be re-imagined as the fanfare echoing through the halls of the castle in Atari’s Adventure) comes with a sense of detached observation that makes it something much more soothing. It may not be what Koch wanted, but Blue Sky Objective certainly puts the “comfort” into cold comfort.