It’s clear from the cover that Simulat, Romanian DJ Cosmin TRG’s full-length debut, will be an album of brainy and glacially cold music. There’s nothing wrong with that, but an album needs at least an undercurrent of soul to connect with its listener. David Bowie’s Low, Eno’s Another Green World, and Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children are all albums that could be inhospitably cold but work because of their foundation in feeling; in each case, the album’s soul is hard to pinpoint, but as Justice Potter Stewart said of hard-core porn, “I know it when I see it.” Without soul, an album is doomed to be only momentarily entertaining–in other words, functional.
This is true of any genre, but especially dance music, which so often seems to have been designed for Friday night and, during the rest of the week, serve mostly as innocuous background noise. Unless something compelling is going on beneath the surface, there’s nothing really to occupy your full attention or call you back after the album’s ended (unless you haven’t got any others).
Unfortunately, Simulat is all surface and no soul. But just because it’s not a great album, doesn’t mean it’s not good.
The music relies heavily on its complex and surprising rhythms to distinguish it from your average Chipotle music. Except for the first of three short, pleasantly nebulous interludes (“Infinite Helsinki”), every track gets your feet tapping. “Amor y Otros” and “Ritmat” throw rhythmic curveballs, the latter sounding almost African. “Lillasyster” restlessly complicates its beat with new parts, but the result never distracts from the overall vibe; its transition into the calm, quiet interlude “Samiska” makes perfect sense. “Lillasyster” also showcases Cosmin’s penchant for intricate, syncopated bass parts.
Each song features the repetition of a single harmonic theme. Listeners may disagree on which themes sustain their songs. To me, “Ritmat,” “Want You to Be,” and “Fizic” are filler; compared to “Less of Me, More of You” and “Osu Xen,” they pass by almost unnoticeably. It’s possible to do a lot with Cosmin’s minimal melodic style, but he hasn’t got the touch yet.
“Form Over Function” is a curious closer for an album so functional it has a track named “Interstellar In-Flight Entertainment” (which would still be in-flight entertainment…?). But if I take him up on his suggestion, close my eyes, and focus on the music, I like the cold braininess of it. Even if the album’s lack of compelling emotion renders it unmemorable, it makes for a pleasant 47 minutes.
Since 2007 Cosmin has released a handful of singles as TRG for various labels. All are on iTunes. He currently works in Berlin.
Tags: Cosmin TRG, Cosmin TRG - Simulat album review, nathan caldwell, Reviews, Simulat, TRG