Album Review: Function / Vatican Shadow - Games Have Rules

Album Review: Function / Vatican Shadow - Games Have Rules
Artist Name:
Function/Vatican Shadow
Album Name:
Games Have Rules
Release Type:
Release Date:
Record Label: Label Location:
Los Angeles
Review Author: Review Date:
EM Review Rating:

It's interesting finding out the Function / Vatican Shadow collaborative album, Games Have Rules, was created as a representation of New York City at night. To think of such a city in ambient terms orchestrated by David Sumner (Function) and Dominick Fernow (Vatican Shadow) is not exactly how we would expect the two NYC connoisseurs to stir the pot, but then again when have either fit right in with predictability? Thinking about Function’s techno-enriched credentials with Sandwell District now working alongside Vatican Shadow and his particularly gritty noise background on his own Hospital Productions would make anyone anticipate - at glance - an album full of loud thumps programmed through leaden analog frequencies tailored for a primetime dance floor; But GHR isn’t about that. Instead, it centers around the intent to strip back each producer’s habitual niche in order to obtain a communal sweet spot designated for a late night to early morning listening session.


Weightless, lucid, and free-flowing, the unhurried and slow-to-formulate elements in the album creates a sense of endlessness—exactly how one would feel about New York City while staring straight up at any of its towering skyscrapers. Sumner and Fernow detail a perspective defying the age-old conception of a restless, rapid, and boisterous city that will chew you up and spit you back out relentlessly if you take an ambitious bite too soon. Musically guiding us through dark & narrow alleys, by quiet park streets, and to skyscraper rooftops where the only thing you’ll be met with is New York’s dense fog, the greyness and nostalgic romanticism painted on this album makes it an emotional stroll easy to get lost in.


At times coming across like a continuation to Function's Incubation LP where sounds and sequences orbit around Sumner's instilled galaxy of glossy chords and abundant elegance, Fernow's mystique and rigid spontaneity in Remember Your Black Day equally varnish over in calmer fashion. Indeed, it’s this same obscurity of not being able to clearly distinguish which of the two puppeteers leads the show at any given time exampling what a true collaboration between artists should sound like more often. Working through sedative states of long chords and subtle globular rings, lightness also meets ample flesh as acid licks softly chime in with a faint presence reminding us (from a safe distance) of the city’s indestructible spirit. Never about any individual track but the uniformity of each being a part of a greater whole, GHR depicts a city with a newfangled dystopian tip that details an experience away from the mass inhabitants. It is a melancholic disengagement narrating a withdrawal from all the craze, for even at its fastest point the kick drum thumps unselfishly allowing the distant chords and magnificent soundscapes to saunter along and take a leading role.


GHR steers a new direction for both Sumner and Furnow who previously flirted with experimentally ambient themes, but in no way is this a product that we could never expect from them. In fact, it feels more like a natural transition than a groundbreaking turn in both respective careers. With the true reward being reached while taking time to decode details you probably didn't catch the listen before, this album will prize you through each listen the same way New York City revives you once you drop the official city guides and venture off into unlisted hole-in-the-wall occupancies that later become personal gems.

Album Review · Ambient · Electronic · Techno


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