Gatekeeper – Exo (Album Review)

‘Exo’ is the debut album from Gatekeeper, the NYC electronic duo of Aaron David Ross and Matthew Arkell. Following on from two highly acclaimed EPs, ‘Exo’ sees the duo taking a slightly different direction with their sound and pitching it up a level. Meant to be listened to as a whole this is an experience album, the tracks blending into one another to create an immersive sound scape of an LP. Exo is released on 17th July by the label Hippos In Tanks and is to be accompanied by a custom-made, first person gaming environment.

This album will most certainly not be to everyone’s tastes. It can be quite overwhelming at times; it’s hard to tell where one track ends and another one begins. Each separate track is made up of multiple melodies and rhythms that twist in and out of each other in a complex tapestry of sound. The detail of these tracks is astonishing, impossible to pick out single melodies because as soon as you catch onto one it’s gone only to be replaced by another.

Listening to this 35 minute epic is a fully immersive experience, one that leaves you feeling very confused when you come out the other side. The sound is so intense that you can’t help but feel that Gatekeeper have beaten you about the head with this LP as they exercise their full creative abilities. On the first listen I felt constantly lost, so overwhelming is the sound. However on listening again you notice the peaks and troughs within the music and it is those that make this special. The troughs are moments to collect yourself, lull you into a false sense of security before the sound comes rushing back at you at full force. ‘Hydrus’ is one of these tracks, almost mellow by ‘Exo’s’ standards but the track builds, with its melodies morphing into one another to create a real trance like track.

‘Tree Drum’s’ opening is pure atmosphere; the powerful percussion is then layered with an eerily flowing melody with some jungle sounds thrown in for good measure. ‘Dromos’s’ opening had me feeling on edge, its unsettling mix of sounds had a very sinister undertone but the track then opens up, becomes expansive, with an almost choral sound up in the top layers which morphs seamlessly into the next track ‘Aero’. ‘Re-gen’ is just one big sweeping soundscape, wind moving amongst the electronic swipes of sound fading slowly into what I think is the stand out track of Exo – ‘Encarta’. This song is triumphant, you can’t beat a bit of choral music to create an atmosphere and layering it with rushing electronic melodies and techno beats creates a truly epic sound. I think that this could actually stand alone, the rest of the tracks need each other but this could exist as a separate entity.

Gatekeeper have created a mind boggling new level of music. You don’t just listen to it, you are completely involved, they have created something more than sound, this is an experience album. This is intense and not something that you could listen to often, but when you do it’s a real treat for the senses. I don’t think it will be joining my music collection on a long term basis but for now it can enjoy a brief hurrah.


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