This is a review of "Square Wave EP" recorded by Signal Generator. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2003.
The "Square Wave" EP from Huddersfeld's Signal Generator (Peter Morttram) is four tracks with (as far my lugs can tell) not a square wave anywhere. This is the non-threatening end of the electronica/ambient/techno spectrum with no laptops and no 30 minute wasp noises. It's packed with diddly tunes that loop and loop and reach steadily and blissfully upwards in a hopeful excited rush of optimism, good spirits and universal love. It's all about pleasure and calm. It's very listenable sonic candy that will make roomfuls of people want to get wriggly and go mmm.
The tunes are the most obvious point of reference. Each track in the set has at least one pentatonic kind of riff that holds the focus while the beats and the ambient noises work away in the background. The pattern is most pronounced in killer final track "Spacey". A very sweet four bar descending phrase on a light glockenspiel kind of noise. Not a melody as such, but it does what a good hook does - it snags itself right under your skin. Embellishments from the junior composer's handbook intermittently add and subtract themselves (a nice oboeish three note sequence for example) as the tune winds its way. There's little musical development as you might get in orchestral or post rock music and it does end at what seems like a randomly chosen moment. But for pop music it registers as pretty clever stuff and the label's claim to "leftfield" status is not completely off the mark. In "Laidback" the tune gets delayed till half way through - a nice touch because it's all the more welcome when it arrives. "Random" lurks in the minimalist end of the room and "PSS-780" at track 3 starts off like a Cadbury's Smash advert with some 80s geek doing android-stuck-in-a-glass-lift miming on TOTP2.
I set my nice stereo volume to "ridiculously loud for a semi" to check for aggressive bass lines. But they're warm and cuddly and the neighbours haven't moved out. So that's OK.
Overall it's the textures that give the variety and it's the machinery that generates the textures. The structures and tempos are pretty consistent (which I guess is exactly what they should be if they're dance oriented tracks). And the conclusive argument in its favour is that Phil Norman of Norman Records likes it. Signal Generator could be onto something here. Something exotic enough to really like, but not so adventurous that it's threatening.