?Underlined Twice? opens Native New Zealander Alex Mein Smith?s new record with a whirlwind of chaotic beats, spooky keyboard, drones and some slight arpeggio-ed guitar unifying into a singular, circular movement. It?s not dance music per se, but the groove is as infectious as it is strange, and manages a kind of rare dark euphoria. Smith has been associated with NZ?s most prominent experimental musicians, including Birchville Cat Motel and Anthony Milton. And while the aural textures Smith explores on ?Necessity?s Flame? are as out there as anything fans of the NZ underground would expect, a tight knit structure holds the record together, flavoring it with an accessibility it might not otherwise have.
Which is to say, Smith has a knack for beats, and the distorted, minimal poundings he creates add an almost tribal flair to otherwise synthetic sounding chords and sound effects. The synths on ?Bounders? have an otherworldly feel, but the gritty rhythm keeps the track this side of the new age. Smith claims to have intentionally utilized sharp notions of contrast in writing ?Necessity?s Flame,? and a duality is certainly palpable. However centering a record on a singular idea (even if that singular idea is duality) can lead to a feeling of repetition. While each track is quite masterfully constructed individually, as a whole, the record seems too similar throughout, with no real peaks or valleys.
Granted, Smith may have had this in mind, especially considering the trance-like quality of many of the tracks. But a record this full of tension and suspense would do well to have some kind of climax or lull. The closest the record comes is during the title track, which sporadically drops its understated beat and lets the music float adrift for a bit. All in all, however, Necessity?s Flame? is a worthwhile sonic experience, and will likely influence listeners in a variety of ways. 7/10 -- Jon Pitt (20 August, 2008)