Under the moniker Isolée, German house artist Rajko Müller’s third album, Well Spent Youth, compiles ten lengthy essays of ambient electronic music. This is music for headphones, and for the most part it’s hard to imagine that anyone except for zombies could move to this on a dance floor. However, characterizing this release as chillwave is a disservice, as Isolée crafts a pulsating rhythm bed throughout and builds a framework of glitchy techno ambiance on top of it.
It’s a dense jungle of vamping melodic and discordant herky-jerky, off-kilter bass drum anchored beats, and the best way to explore it is to embrace it with eyes closed, as the waves wash across the ears. Still, after repeated listens it does become a little headache inducing. It’s hard to know what the goal is here, and the hooks are buried so low in the mind-melting mish-mash, that they are almost indiscernible.
Listening to Well Spent Youth is like standing at the helm of an icebreaker with an infinite horizon of glaciers ahead—it’s beautiful to see from a distance, but difficult to navigate through.
The cuts themselves are from the same cloth, so they tend to blend together into one tapestry of bubbling clockwork electropop. “One Box” and “Celeste” might form the perfect soundtrack to snowmelt, with their syncopated synthetic water drop rhythms. Jingle bells and vibes flesh out the delivery on “Journey’s End,” feedback and echoed breathing distinguishes “Going Nowhere” (a title befitting the lack of direction and resolution on the track), and on “Transmission” Isolée mines an inverted Stereolab rhythm and introduces some rare vocals, albeit filtered through electronic treatments.
Fans of Müller’s last release, 2005’s We Are Monsters may be disappointed, since this is a return to the low-key approach of his 2000 debut, Rest. However, even though Well Spent Youth is another collection of techno-minimalism, it’s worth a few spins to find out if one can be fully immersed. Also, the trip to that state of mind might be rewarding, even if it’s difficult at times.
Isolée – Well Spent Youth tracklist
- “Paloma Triste”
- “Thirteen Times an Hour”
- “Journey’s End”
- “Going Nowhere”
- “One Box”
- “Trop Près De Toi (97′ Interlude)”
- “Hold On”
- “In Our Country”