Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter; that, when he speaks,
The air, a charter’d libertine, is still.
– Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47
For those unfamiliar with the legend of the Gordian knot, it’s one so intricately tied that it is essentially impossible to untangle — a somewhat intractable problem. Alexander The Great, when told that whomever untied the knot would rule all of Asia, supposedly promptly sliced the attached string to render the knot itself useless — hence the expression “to cut the Gordian knot” — to think outside the box, to render arbitrary assumptions useless.
Cosmin TRG’s Gordian is an exercise in loosening the fabled knot as opposed to simply cutting it dead. Cosmin operates wholeheartedly within the world of tech-house, notable for its refined approach to composition, an ever-unfolding and infinite platform for development of sound in a classical-minimalist manner, engineered for a physical experience — be it on the d-floor or in a solitary, contained environment. Careful addition and subtraction are the predominant operating factors in the gamut of tech-house and its collective forays into fusion with garage and dub.
Cosmin applies the + and - of tech-house to his relatively imperfect soundworld — individual elements are crushed, distorted, and bent into instrumental shapes of a futuristic and simulated form, but are combined into logical, mathematically-sound forms that shift and shudder with a weight seemingly at odds with their lightness and dexterity of execution. Within this format, Cosmin displays nothing untowardly radical or jarringly visceral in the vein of slicing the aforementioned string, but does offer an alternative — that of the seamless descent into rhythmic purity, abandonment of crude musical statements.
Opener “New Structures For Loving” gradually establishes an atmosphere that appears to lord over the majority of the album, a shadowed but optimistic sphere perpetually rising and gaining intensity before simmering and falling into a hollowed abyss. Among the cold, mechanized click of metal and robotic punches of pitch-shifting bass drums, clanging, warped found sounds flail amid flanging hi-hats and a disconcerting wandering static haze. As a damp block enters the fray, a musty, pulsating synth introduces the sole melodic and harmonic focus of the track, and with a resigned fade, the track ever so precisely removes its layers until all that remains is an otherworldly hiss and click-clack. The actual intricacies of Cosmin’s figures aren’t beyond finer scrutiny, as there’s a great deal of transparency surrounding the microcosm of this track (not to mention the others); however, it’s worth considering that, although Cosmin displays ability in his craft, he steers away from introducing ideas that are markedly affecting. This isn’t a criticism of the music overall, perhaps merely of the combinations and the directions they are taken in — it does little to really challenge its listener beyond the norm.
With this in mind, the following title track continues the predominant optimism with a warped guitar fragment sitting above a lush bass, offering gradual background development in a harmonic style that bears more similarity to post-rock than it does to the chronic darkness of his countless contemporaries. This melodic presence helps to set Cosmin apart and allows the listener to immerse themselves in an ambience cultivated by that same dominating refinement. “Divided By Design,” while transmuting the milieu to a far more organic and sample-fueled abode, is imbued with that recurring, unshakable positivity abjectly crushed on the abrasively groovy follower, “Semipresent.” Clicks and hats buzz around indeterminable horn-like fragments over a constant bass pulse that clears a path for the noise-infused, disorientating “Epsilon, Epsilon.”
Tending toward minimalism as opposed to shock musical tactics, Cosmin TRG doesn’t thrill with throat-grabbing statements, but of course that is far from his intention. As far as refined exploration of timbral relationships is concerned, Cosmin transplants a remarkable variety of both collected sounds and house standards into a likable, wholesome album. Despite its emphasis on the fundamental, the basic, and the mechanized, Cosmin implants a noticeable character within Gordian that reveals itself fully as a non-hubristic, thoughtful approach to the Gordian problem.