Essential albums: Bluetech

On his brilliant early releases - Prima Materia (2003) and Elementary Particles (2004) - American composer Bluetech debuts a striking and original take on the downtempo-electronica-with-psychedelic-undertones school of instrumental chill...these releases establish what many fans still regard as the classic Bluetech sound.


country of origin:

Ambient pop, ambient dub, psyambient, lounge, nu jazz, spacemusic, drone

decades active:
00's - 10's

essential releases:

  • Prima Materia (2003, Waveform)
  • Elementary Particles ep (2004, Native State)
  • Prima Materia + Elementary Particles (2004, Aleph Zero)
  • Sines & Singularities (2005, Aleph Zero)
  • Phoenix Rising (2008, Somnia)
  • Dreaming Into Being (2013, Sounds True)
  • 4 Horsemen Of The Electrocalypse: The Black Horse ep (2017, Native State)
  • Behind The Sky (2018, Behind The Sky Music)
  • Liquid Geometries (2018, DiN)

as Invisible Allies:

  • Conversations With Bees (2014, Aleph Zero)

Reviewed by Mike G

On his brilliant early releases - Prima Materia (2003) and Elementary Particles (2004) - American composer Bluetech (real name: Evan Bartholomew) debuts a striking and original take on the downtempo-electronica-with-psychedelic-undertones school of instrumental chill. Though he would go on to experiment and veer off in quite a number of other genre directions in future years, these releases establish the digital ambient pop and quirky signatures that still define what many fans regard as the classic Bluetech sound.

Around taut, muscular rhythms he weaves bleepy synthetic melody lines that punch and stab their way up through the mix, quite unlike the smoother world beat path that was being trodden by many of his psyambient and lounge contemporaries of this period. It's dub music in a way - beyond some obvious reggae patterns - yet with sharper shapes and less swimming in reverb. While often punchy, the music is not wantonly abrasive, and a certain subtlety keeps it comfortably under the banner of ambient beats.

Sines and Singularities (2005) embraces a lusher sound and lots of synthpop-like hooks. This is the album that really got him noticed among downtempo fans, and already he was remixing the work of others: NZ dub act Pitch Black and proggy psychill duo Shulman. It's still his most accessible album and the best place to start for newcomers.

The follow-up Phoenix Rising (2008) is rather different and more eclectic, the moment where he truly embraces the the fat, tuneful bassline. He elevates this dubby bass goodness above the squiggly tech-pop of the previous release with glorious results. Lounge and trip hop flavors ala Bonobo and Thievery Corp also seep into the sound, like the horns and strings on "Kingdom of the Blind". The album's a stunner, arguably his strongest.

Different again is Conversations with Bees (2014), the best of two releases he's done as the duo Invisible Allies with fellow American James Watts. It's an ambitious and complex exploration of midtempo tribal beats, groovy electronica and jazzy soloing on flutes, violin and trumpet. Essentially one track with nine distinct chapters, the shifting syncopations and textural inventions are often brilliant. Not the most accessible album, but a deeply rewarding one.

The above five releases capture the best of Bluetech's beats work up until his break from music between 2014-16. Hardcore fans might enjoy the dissonant takes on percussive IDM techno, or the flirtations with vocal pop, that can found on some of the others. In 2013, however, he began a more substantial detour: lush, largely beatless drones and spacey arpeggiated synths. At this he proves a dab hand. He had already telegraphed a somewhat deeper direction on a series of albums released under his own name during the 2000's; these kinds of sounds are now also a small but substantial part of the Bluetech oeuvre.

The first release in this style is the new age-tinged Dreaming Into Being (2013) which has pulses and light grooves in places - including some epic cosmic arpeggio workouts - but even in those moments it's emotionally a different space to his other material. Ditto Behind The Sky (2018) and Liquid Geometries (2018), albums which mesh spinning melodies and drifting landscapes. On Behind The Sky he collaborates with Shane Coetee aka In The Branches, whose processes guitar sounds add a welcome textural beauty to Bluetech's newfound love for modular analog synths.

Post-2016 has also seen some more eclectic beats releases, sometimes in his signature dubby pop style, at others much more flavoured by 80's electro, Detroit techno and IDM. Results are mixed, though one that I can unreservedly recommend is the 5-track ep The Black Horse (2017) from his 4 Horsemen Of The Electrocalypse series, which touches on every one of the above sounds with tremendous poise.

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