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optimal.lp (2LP)

Label: Keplar

Format: 2LP

Genre: Electronic

Preorder: Releases June 28th, 2024


Released in 1999 on Taylor Deupree’s 12k label, "optimal.lp" was the debut album by Dan Abrams under his Shuttle358 moniker. For its 25th anniversary, Keplar presents it on vinyl for the first time with three previously unreleased tracks—the digital version also includes a alternative version of "Tank" —as well as a new artwork recreated by Daniel Castrejón and a remaster by Andreas [LUPO] Lubich based on the original pre-masters that were been restored and cleaned up for the reissue project by Abrams. "optimal.lp" was inspired by the rich tradition of ambient music and the rhythmic complexity of 1990s electronica while also sharing many traits with the then-emerging clicks’n’cuts movement, making it a true sui generis piece of work—both informed by tradition and visionary, idiosyncratic and seminal for many artists after him. Abrams developed an interest in ambient music when he was still a child, scouring through cassette tapes of environmental sounds, new age music, and world percussion. Discovering Brian Eno’s "Thursday Afternoon" as a young teenager marked a turning point for him. "It gave me the idea that ambient music could be an intentional creative act, that tone itself is a legitimate form of expression," he says today. During the 1990s, he increasingly immersed himself in the electronica scene and the output of labels such as Instinct, where Deupree worked as an Art Director and released his first records as Human Mesh Dance. Abrams found a home on 12k after sending Deupree a demo tape that would later evolve into "optimal.lp," released as the label’s fifth catalogue number.

Abrams was still in college when he started experimenting with a sound module, his laptop and a mixer as well as a MIDI card and a small controller. "Each note was composed in MIDI and played back when I was ready to record," he explains his working process at the time. "The tracks could be replayed, but the sound interactions with glitches and noise would be a little different each time. I decided to base the concept of the album on these interactions." Each piece started with a single sound or tone that, as Abrams puts it, already contained the entire composition: "I let these interactions guide me, and tried to complement them as I added sounds. It’s a conversation of sorts with the medium."

While refining this technique that he would go on to use on every album until 2004’s "Chessa," reissued by Keplar in 2021, he also used the first-ever Native Instrument product, the Generator soft synth, to write the record’s title track—possibly making it the first album on which it was being used. "optimal.lp" is marked by this curious interplay of cutting-edge technology, the limitations with which every college student with a small budget is faced, and boundless creativity. "I’ve talked with other artists about how we feel about our early work," Abrams says today. "We all agreed that there were elements that remain a part of us in a timeless way, despite our techniques—or lack thereof—at the time. "optimal.lp" has a lot of things that will always be with me, that are me. I think I left some clues in there for my future self."

This sense of timelessness remains tangible after a quarter of a century after the album’s original CD release and is even being expanded upon by the vinyl reissue, which is complemented by three pieces that were made while Abrams was working on the album. The digital release even features an entirely new take on the original album’s final piece, "Tank." While Abrams let one of the masters go through his customised reverb unit when preparing the reissue, he started recording the results of this accidental dialogue between past and present. It’s a fitting tribute to an album whose delicate circular rhythms, rich textures, and ethereal melodies are precisely so exhilarating because their interplay seems to suspend the passing of time altogether.

Cat. number: KeplarRev19LP
Year: 2024