Album after album, Sound Tribe Sector 9 has distanced itself from the jam-influenced alivetronica movement it engineered with a number of like-minded collectives in the late 1990s. While the band’s work has been reinterpreted on several remix albums, Ad Explorata marks the quintet’s most definitive step into electronica on a studio release, with 12 instrumental compositions that range from frenetic bass blasts to ambient meditations, often within the same track.
STS9 claims that Ad Explorata is “inspired by the idea that there is always more to be discovered, manifested by the belief that you can always push towards the unknown and unexplored, and created by the will and desire for constant artistic evolution, expression and change.” True to the claim, the band does push into new territory, albeit it in the vein of its stylistic nuances, and at times, this new territory doesn’t translate into “groundbreaking,” as listeners would hope. Boards of Canada-style down-tempo colors “Oil & Water” and “Crypto City,” and “EHM” – one of the highlights of the release – boasts a trademark-STS9 layered workout that gains momentum with each cycle, eventually merging into a synthetic bass groove driven by tense drum breaks.
One thing is clear: These compositions beg to be stretched out live, where STS9 will surely explore unforeseen realms of sound and consciousness. But on Ad Explorata, the band only lives up to part of its claim: there is little here that comes across as unknown or unexplored, but plenty to reflect the artistic evolution, expression and change of Sound Tribe Sector 9.
Ad Explorata is out now on 1320 Records.