By Jamie McNamara
Art is a product of the environment it was created in. For Dan Solo and Evangelos Lambrinoudis, that environment was the grey, bleak reality of working on the oilpatch to make a livable income. Their surroundings led them to start thinking about conditions faced by migrant workers and a dystopian industrial future. Solo and Lambrinoudis used that experience as inspiration for Migrant Workers, their second album together as Sanctums.
Sanctums earn their keep with an atmospheric blend of ambient techno and other paradoxically linked genres. Some of their past work could sit next to Burial, with a focus on cinematic sounding, beat-oriented tracks. The duo are more interested in ways to compel than they are with the use of beats, leading to an album that rarely feels like it belongs anywhere else than near a nightclub. Instead, Migrant Workers unfolds much like a movie score. It is a heavily moody record that can be compared to a hypothetical midway between Junior Boys and John Carpenter.
Lambrinoudis’ work as Corinthian is abrasive and nerve-wracking. A toned-down version of that overblown aesthetic appears on this album, but it feels as if the producers are unafraid to make their music beautiful. Standout track “All Around Us” is a warm, lush synthscape that brings to mind Tycho’s sun-soaked electronica. Not to mention, it is one of few songs on the album that embraces melody and genuinely feels upbeat. It is a well-deserved break for the listener, a moment where the perpetual dreariness subsides and some brightness shines through. That’s not to say that the bleak qualities of the record are any less enjoyable. “A Thousand Mile Stare” is a beautifully minimal track that is coated in a dense brain fog. Its darkness is hypnotic and enticing, its synths pulsing slowly drawing you in deeper and deeper into its grasp.
It isn’t until halfway through the album’s runtime that “Sentinel” finally embraces the duo’s dance-floor tendencies. The track is a seven-minute stunner that features swirling atmosphere that slowly builds itself into a brooding 4/4 techno slow burn. It’s amongst the best work either of the producers have ever released, separately or together.
Migrant Workers is a downright impressive record. It’s the product of two veteran producers who know exactly what mood they are trying to achieve with their records. It isn’t as accessible listen as Sanctums previous works, but instead it rewards repeat listens that reveal something new to enjoy every time.Migrant Workers, Sanctums