Released in late January of this year, Empathy Machine Recovery by The Gibraltarians (a.k.a. Patrick Hogan) is an odd dance album that is filled with lots of not-dance music. At first blush, you may be tricked into thinking it is going to be nine songs of sparse house music. But once you get past the first minute or so, you quickly realize that this is not exactly dance music, though it draws heavily from house for rhythmic inspiration.
The first track “I Told You I Was Sick” starts out with a standard four on the floor with the consistent hi-hats and a nineties-inspired synth, which instantly gave me the impression that I’m about to hear some attempt to revive early house music. But as I listened, I started to hear the other multitude of influences bleed in and the rhythm suddenly wound down, leaving me wondering what exactly was going on.
As the music continued on, the album appeared to be getting progressively slower with each track. By the time the third track “Unardo” came on, that four on the floor beat had turned into something with much more swing to it. Additionally, the rhythms now seemed to take a backseat to the variety of synthetic melodies created by Hogan alongside a unique vocal sample. I’m honestly not quite sure if the rhythms were intentionally fading into the background or if I was just perceiving it as such.
While the changing rhythms provide a nice base for each track, it is really the synths that stand out throughout the album. The album is an eclectic combination of sounds that range from airy and bright to odd and lo-fi. The absolutely incredible variety and the manner in which they are combined are a high point of the album, examples of which can be found throughout but are prominent on “EMR,” “The Escape Act,” and “The Sacred Art of Dreaming.” Truly, the sheer variety of textures present is deserving of all the appreciation I have for this album.