Release date: March 3, 2014 | Deep Medi Musik | Bandcamp | Facebook

I can’t believe it’s only been the second time in almost eight years of running this feature that I had to postpone an episode. Oh well. No content without its creators, and life can get in the way at any given moment. Luckily the circumstances were positive, so let’s move on to today’s main point of interest: A Taste Of Struggle by enigmatic Belgian electronica duo A/T/O/S.

Daniel Reiser

Electronica allows such elasticity as a genre. The inherent experimentalist nature of the entire scene gives way for an amazing kaleidoscope of sonic collages that generally tend to give way to some truly remarkable moments.

A Taste of Struggle is a good indication of everything that’s right within the scene. The experimentalism is running high, everything sounds futuristic, and it sounds as fresh as it does today in 2024, as it did when it was released in 2014.

The production pops with a clarity that allows everything to shine in a particularity that’s wholly unique. Tracks like intro “Projects” give way to the icy cool delivery of boundaryless exploration that fills the rest of the album’s run-time with fantastic results.

“Cosmos” has a sly edge to it that lets it slink and saunter in a way that enables the vocals to take center stage in a way that exudes untouchable coolness. Elsewhere, tracks like “Roses” tips its hat towards trip-hop leanings that evolves into the catchy as hell and ever-satisfying chorus.

The entire project was a statement that A/T/O/S fleshed out every since, and built a bridge between the elasticity of electronica, and the cool, and soothing nature of neo-soul in such a way that kept everything enticing just enough to invite the listener into their chilled-out world.

Robert Miklos

My personal love story with A/T/O/S’s self-titled record goes back to sometime in late 2014/early 2015. It was still fresh, known to no more than maybe a few hundred people I’d wager. One of my best friends decided to show it to me on the off chance I might like it. The guarantees were slim. I was mostly into nu-jazz, post- rock, and progressive metal at the time. It didn’t really check any boxes on paper for me. Yet, somehow, it stuck to me like glue. I was positively enamored with it. Unexplainably so.

At a glance, the glitched out, vague, almost monochromatic album art, drenched in red, doesn’t really say much and to be fair, neither does the opener, “Projects”. Although, my first encounter was with the third track “What I Need”. That’s easily the album’s prime selling point if you ask me. To me at least, it feels like the most unique song of its kind. There’s something utterly magnetic about its off-kilter rhythm, the almost mystical piano tune, Amina Osmanu’s charming, flowing vocal delivery, and of course, the deep warm bass pulses. It paints an outstanding landscape on a large canvas with sparse resources.

I think that applies though to the entire album, especially on “Cosmos” as well, which is another of my favorites. It’s kind of stunning how there’s so little going on, yet so much at the same time. I’m an incredibly maximalist type of person. I might have just been the first one to have said ‘more is more’ in some past life. So, for me in any musical space, more almost always instantly equates to better in some form or another.

On A/T/O/S though empty space is the most valuable resource and it is utilized cleverly and incredibly efficiently. The way it’s twisted to give every minimal layer a distinct charm is something worthy of being studied to be honest. This also plays very well together with all the different electronic tonalities, which are quite varied in texture and presence, and of course, the vocal layers.

As a consequence, nothing is ever overbearing, everything is incredibly relaxed, laid back, and smooth. The general mood ventures from wistful, pensive colored-in-sepia-kind-of-nostalgia all the way to something I could only define as urban jive. I have no idea what that is, but that’s what it feels like. Feel free to quote me on that.

I can’t even honestly say ‘looking back on the record’, because that just never happens. After nearly a decade it’s still in constant rotation in my playlists. It opened me up to an entire realm of music to which I was wholly oblivious to. I am obviously very glad in that I had this door opened.

I would also make the case that I maintained a sustained interest in the record for other reasons than strictly it tugging at me emotionally. It’s also very interesting in how it’s put together. Stylistically it’s very varied, borrowing from IDM, glitch, downtempo, dubstep, soul, r&b, contemporary pop, electronica, ambient, and a few other areas too. I can’t really fathom exactly how you throw all of this together into such a cohesive package, while carving out a clear identity of your own, showcasing your influences, and managing to sound fresh. There’s definitely some hidden genius type stuff going on there.

I would also add to this that, overall, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything really even remotely close like A/T/O/S. Although I did very much enjoy waterman, as I went on to explain here. So, this uniqueness is definitely part of what makes it amazing to me, besides the incredible songwriting and production. I could go on at length about each song in part and why they’re all special in their own way, but I feel that would undercut what’s at the heart of the record. It’s a record that’s supposed to be simple, to the point, something to vibe to for days, and to not overthink. Just bob your head to the groove and get lost in the flow. I’ll do just that right now as I put the record on again for the nth time.

Dominik Böhmer

Dominik Böhmer

Pretentious? Moi?

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