Tripswitch ‎– Vagabond


Versions (4)

Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
IBOGALP12 Tripswitch Vagabond(2x12", Album) Iboga Records IBOGALP12 Denmark 2016 Sell This Version
IBOgALP 12 Tripswitch Vagabond(2x12", Album, TP) Iboga Records IBOgALP 12 Denmark 2016 Sell This Version
IBO1DW996 Tripswitch Vagabond(9xFile, WAV, Album) Iboga Records IBO1DW996 Europe 2016
IBOGACD96 Tripswitch Vagabond(CD, Album) Iboga Records IBOGACD96 Denmark 2016 Sell This Version



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October 17, 2016
referencing Vagabond, CD, Album, IBOGACD96

Nick Brennan - a.k.a. Tripswitch - got his 15 minutes of fame with 2005’s release of “Circuit Breaker” on Youth’s L.S.D. label. The album was widely praised and critically acclaimed because it successfully merged electronic music with tribal & ethnic sounds, producing very warm, inviting and summer-y vibe. The tempo was just right, the electronic elements were not very intrusive nor aggressive, the voice / singing samples were tactful and well chosen, the arrangements were unusual, full of lush and delicate details. It was a hit all around. The follow-up “Geometry” released in 2010 lacked the backing of the famous label and was missed by a lot of people, but for my money it was even better - the ethnic elements were side-lined in favour of more focused, rhythmic grooves but the music remained soft, warm, expansive; combining real instruments - guitars, pianos, etc. - with electronic, very rich backgrounds and leads. The music got a bit darker, moodier and nostalgic but still pretty bright and upbeat. I loved it! Fast forward to 2016 and to my surprise his new album - “Vagabond” - was supposed to be released by progressive trance power-house Iboga Rec. and to make matters worse Psyshop labelled it initially as “Dance” (then changed to “Progressive House” which wasn’t much more reassuring). Needless to say, I ignored it for few months and only recently got myself to check the samples - and boy I’m happy I did.

Like many others I think, I have a pretty well established mental image of how progressive trance sounds like: 120-140bps tempo, simple “jumpy” bass line, dynamic percussion, “big” chords, stabs and arpeggios, catchy key changes, some female voices, etc. It all - at least for me - started with Son Kite’s “Colours” album that defined most of the typical “templates”, but whereas their music was innovative, full of flair and nuance, what followed later was a thoughtless copying & pasting of those ideas and inevitable dumbing it down.

It’s therefore quite refreshing to hear Tripswitch’s take on progressive trance / house - he’s boldly flirting with those cliches, but is able to avoid falling into the tired and overused schemes most of the time: a good example would be “Big Time Line” which gets dangerously close to vocal trance, but magically turns it around in 2nd half, delivering very groovy, delicious, spacious finale with genius bass line tweaks. The album is mostly dark, with kind of cold, unsettling, schizophrenic mood created by dissonant, disjointed and un-harmonic sounds, that he somehow then turns into cohesive whole with just a few simple notes or chords - this works great in “Divine Falsehoods” or “Zoetrope” for example, that could pave way for new brand of progressive EMO chill-out. I’m probably projecting some of my personal experiences in close family, but to me a lot of “Vagabond” sounds like a musical depiction of mental illness - individual elements don’t make sense, are chaotic and erratic and when they slowly and successfully get pieced together you still get this feeling that inevitably it can and will fall apart again… It gets slightly brighter in last 3rd of the CD with “The Left Bank” surprisingly melting the trademark prog-bass stabs with Talpa-like squiggly, baroque main line or “Peyola” getting really hypnotic, rich and acidic; but it’s all still pretty melancholic. The album reminds me of someone smiling on the outside, trying to act “happy” in front of the others, but actually on the inside being really depressed and hurt. It’s haunting, unsettling ...but beautiful in it’s own, painful way - just like the cover, actually. The production and mixing is spot-on, very balanced, understated and perceptibly quieter than other Iboga relases, leaving a lot more space for dynamics and small details. The only thing I wasn't keen on were the obvious percussion lead-in / out segments made for DJ-mixing, which I could live without.

If you’re willing to dedicate this album your time, it will reward you with tons of detail hidden behind the obvious kick & bass combo and it will provide meaning to sounds that don’t work together at first. Tripswitch has a knack for creating lush, warm but at the same time unsettling and dark atmospheres and is using tried house / trance templates to evoke feelings - this is a music to get lost in, to listen and reflect upon life and its various facets. I’m not sure how would it work on the dancefloor, but it surely made me drift away in my mind numerous times while listening to it…

One of the best progressive house / trance albums I heard since Son Kite's "Colours" and Jaia's "Fiction", but it's definitely not for everybody.