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“The Balance” is Free the Robots aka Chris Alfaro third album after his self titled debut album (2008) and “Ctrl Alt Delete” (2010) and his profile hasn’t been higher than its is now. Despite being associated with the Low End Theory club night and the L.A. musicians such as Flying Lotus, The Gaslamp Killer etc it’s taken a long time for Alfaro to emerge from their shadow. But he’s here now and we’re all the better for it.

The album opens with the heavy reverberant piano chords and downbeat drums ‘Ophic’ which features a swirling organ melody and the smoky vocals of Jessie Jones. ‘Reflect and Reform’ starts off with wah-wah filtered synth and female voice singing ‘la la la la la’, then a huge, slow moving hip-hop beat drops and a glassy, whistling synth hovers over head. Around 1 minutes 30 seconds in a busy, fast tumbling drum beat and computer game synth bass and melodies kick in, before the woman returns around 2 minutes in. The song changes again with the last minute this time sounding like a glitch hop beat with a simple more reflective lead synth melody over the top.

‘Parallaxis’ kicks off with an upbeat drum break, bass guitar and muted guitar riff, this intro reminds me of getaway music. Then the track breaks down to a head nodding hip-hop beat and synth bass splurges. An 8-bit synth melodies kick in around 1 minute and 30 seconds, before the chase music feel returns brief. Then the track switches back to the head nodding beat. ‘Innervision’ explores the more electronic side of the Free the Robots sound and features slow and stretched electronic drums, twangy, spooky guitars and detuned sounding synths. Later a slow synced LFO bass line drops and takes over. Voice samples are placed in the background throughout. A warm electric piano melody kicks in for the last quarter of the track.

‘Blindfold’ matches thick analogue synths that dive in, bubbling up and bringing in a rolling hip-hop beat full of flams and rolls before an organ melody take over lead duties. Later on great slabs of synth bass dominate the second half of the track and a computer game synth melody hovers above it. The album’s title track is another highlight combining dark reverberate piano chords, a complex beat full of rolling bass drum and snare. These are followed swiftly by a resonate synth melody and a counter point played on organ comes in after 1 minute 30 seconds. The melody becomes a yearning flute around 2 minutes 30 seconds in.

“The Balance” is a good title for this album as Alfaro attempts to bring together many disparate sounds and genres that it could all go wrong so easily. Yet he found a balance between all of these elements and created a great album out of them. Definitely one for fans of Flying Lotus and anything on the Ninja Tune and Stones Throw labels.

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