erasing clouds

I Am Robot and Proud, Uphill City

by dave heaton

I Am Robot and Proud’s last LP referenced electricity in its title, an appropriate word for the energy of Shaw-Han Liem’s instrumental electronic music, for the way it flows. The “city” in the new album’s title feels right in a similar way. Cities have so many moving parts all working together, much like the layers of melodies and textures here, intricately combined into music that’s pretty and invigorating.

Liem builds on the rhythm of repetition (not unlike Phillip Glass in a way), but the music is always moving, cycling. Listen to the second track, the title track; there’s something Zen about it, but it’s ever moving, not still. Elsewhere there’s a colorful, cartoon-future quality, but still with something emotional about it, like on “Making a Case for Magic”. That futurism angle evokes something city-oriented in the music, even as it’s like a journey within the imagination.

I keep thinking of this music in genre terms related to cities – as funky-weird department-store elevator music, or as the soundtrack to images of people shuffling from place to place as one mass, or as a future-world sort of nightclub-jazz or even club music. “Island Life” is as much of a comfort as the title implies, but I think of the middle of the night in a city, when people clear away, more than relaxing on a beach. Then again, word suggestion still plays a role in how we react to this music. Titles like “Train Station Lullaby” bring you to a certain place on their own. Uphill City could be heard many different ways: as the music of dreams or the music of non-human systems (picture ants moving together, deep in the dirt). It’s music without many boundaries within our minds, yet it’s also pop music – easy to hum along with and move along with.


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