Fractals by Michael Donoghue (Album Review)

For those who shudder at mathematics, the idea of fractals can be dauntingly hard to conceptualize. But luckily for the more left-side brained of us, Michael Donoghue of Jersey conceptualizes the notion of fractals through glacial and alluring experimental electronica. His recent work, the album "Fractals", unfolds across eight tracks of varying complexity and depth, like an Arctic explorer traversing white deserts and scaling frozen chasms. 

From the atmospheric downtempo opener, "Black Tides", to the beauteous ambience of the closing track, "Magnolia Dusk", the listener is treated to a creative and variegated sonic world that never abandons its atmospheric DNA. On "Mantis", a four-to-the-floor beat and twinkling notes are processed and manipulated until they form a paragon of the industrial genre. "Apolemia" has too many ingredients, but Donoghue is a skilful cook and manages to unite all the sounds without burning anything. Here, a eutrophic melodic refrain holds everything together, and the hi-hats sound so ice-cool you'd swear they were recorded in Antarctica. 

"Vertigo" features a collaboration with vocalist Kiffie, and while the vocals potentially distract from the instrumental impact of the album, on the whole, they succeed in being just as creepy and evocative as the music. "Last Thursdayism" is seemingly divided into two sections; an Aphex Twin-inspired burst of glitchy IDM and a Tangerine Dream-Esque ambient second half that flows continuously without ever running dry. For all of the minimalism of "Innerspace", it manages to be the most intense track here, the synths maximally amplified and stretched across the stereo in a way that hits you. 

At 10 minutes, the title track is the longest and the highlight. Piano keys and bass notes play with each other while dreamy pads swirl all around them. They're eventually joined by a muted kick drum and bright hi-hats that help extend the track to its hypnotic heights. 

While the instruments on display sometimes could've used more seasoning and the narrative voice a little more cohesion, this is a very admirable exploration into modern experimental electronica from an artist with a pronounced sense of environment. Donoghue knows how to spin his tracks on the delicate axle of which intriguing and pleasant meet, making "Fractals" just as serviceable for a coder who needs music to work to as someone who requires a deep-listening experience and a sonic world into which they can escape. 


Fractals by Michael Donoghue
Reviewed by Jay Honeycomb on 2022 August 22nd
Rating: 3.5