The Centre Cannot Hold CD-EP

London threepiece Digitonal set out to combine elements of classical and electronic dance music. Not an easy task, for many musicians have tried and failed miserably in this endeavour.

The main idea behind combining electronic sounds and orchestral arrangements is to lend a dramatic and uplifting quality to the glacial machine-like perfection normally associated with electronic music. Of course, there's a very fine line between the kitsch and the truly great. Digitonal have certainly achieved to create a tasteful hybrid, as can be witnessed on their current four-track album "The Centre Cannot Hold". Mournful cello melodies and lush string arrangements complement brisk drum loops and cold synthesizer sounds.

The album kicks off with the ethereal "Maris Stella", probably inspired by the hymn "Ave Maris Stella" dating from the 9th century and noted for its clearly structured accentual pattern to go along with simple musical sequences. The song features vocalist Kirsty Hawkshaw, who has in the past collaborated with the likes of Orbital and Delerium. Her fragile and decidedly "angelic" voice is set against a dramatic background borne by a cello line and breakbeat sequence. Methinks it is a bit reminiscent of ill-fated 1980ies' project Miranda Sex Garden, best remembered for their madrigal-adaptation "Gush Forth My Tears".

The rest of the songs are instrumental pieces. "Snowflake Vectors" for one is a great tune with its floating synthesizer sounds and delicate string harmonies. Highly airy arrangement that leaves ample room for the listener to immerse into a state of contemplation. "Cantus V" with its layers of drifting soundscapes and lively rhythms is a bit in the Autechre vein (circa the "Incunabula" album), while "Amberkreiss" sets the focus back on the rich string parts.

"The Centre Cannot Hold" is anything but a groundbreaking effort, but within its stylistic framework a classy production by three musicians who obviously know the tools of their trade.

(rh 05/MMV)

Label: Seed Records

>> Seed Records website

A tasteful hybrid of electronic sounds and orchestral arrangements