If you’re old enough to recall the thriving electronic music scene of the ’90s, or if you’re an avid electronic music fan that has spent a copious amount of time exploring the genre, you’ll either remember or know that artists at that time weren’t afraid of experimentation. Back then, expansive sounds were being created, and we as listeners were challenged to absorb the wondrous sonic varieties, not knowing quite what hit us. As digital technology advanced, so too did the music. This, of course, wasn’t a bad thing – It gave the musician a lot more flexibility and didn’t require them to be encumbered by crates of vinyl or hardware synthesizers. Another advantage was that production techniques would become cleaner. The one thing I really miss is the rawness of ’90s electronic, though. It gave the music a rough edge; it was all warm and gritty. Fast forward to today and most artists will have sanded every single one of those edges until the sound is all nice and rounded, perfect for 21st Century audiophiles. John Shern, better known as SEN, dared to be different with the release of ‘Sensory Emotive Network’.
With a sound that harkens back to the ’90s, echoing strong hints of Basic Channel and Global Communication, this album has everything an ambient techno fan could ask for. Emotion is what lies at the core of this album, and my personal interpretation, which will most probably be different from its intended meaning, is that every sound here tells a story that we can all relate to in this world: Apathy, sadness and longing, though all of these seem to be transferred to us through music, via an omnipotent creation known as the Sensory Emotive Network… But that’s just my interpretation. Objectively, the album explores a dense atmosphere created by angelic pads, a sparse amount of sampling, reverberating percussion, and deep basslines which sound like they’ve been immersed in water. At 75 minutes, it’s a demanding listen, but one that’s worth every second.
What pains me most about this album is that it has been majorly overlooked, most probably in favour of music that has been deemed more accessible to the people. If you have open ears and an open mind, I think you’ll enjoy this. The album is available on SEN’s Bandcamp page as a free download or, alternatively, you can buy it. The year’s almost up, and I think every needs to hear a defining album of 2011 before it ends. Listen immediately!