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Aleksi Perälä believes in the power of vibration. The Finnish electronic musician, who lives in rural Wiltshire, England, is a follower of something called the Colundi Sequence: a musical system, created by his friend Grant Wilson-Claridge, that harnesses microtonal differences in pitch to create sparkling, crystalline fields of sound. “You know that feeling when you hear a really amazing song and your hairs go up on your body?” Perälä once asked an interviewer from Resident Advisor. “Colundi is that feeling all the time.”
For Perälä and Wilson-Claridge, Colundi isn’t merely academic or aesthetic: It has a mystical dimension that they claim unites physics, math, astronomy, psychology, “human bio-resonance,” and more into an all-encompassing belief system that even they struggle to understand. Of course, it’s possible that this is all bullshit. Wilson-Claridge co-founded Rephlex Records, where the young Perälä got his start, with Aphex Twin, the most notorious prankster in electronic music. Rephlex shuttered sometime after 2013, allegedly so Wilson-Claridge could devote more time to Colundi, but Perälä has remained remarkably, scarily prolific: His discography since 2007 numbers some 30-odd albums, including at least 17 volumes (or “levels”) of The Colundi Sequence series.
You don’t need to understand the intricacies of Colundi to appreciate Sunshine 3, the third and apparently final installment of a series for the Dutch label Clone Dub. The way the album fuses clean-lined machine rhythms with the vivid detailing of classic IDM is plenty thrilling in its own right. His drums, which toggle between four-to-the-floor pulses and the syncopated snap of classic electro, have the satisfying thwack that has distinguished recent Aphex Twin recordings, full of crisp snares and sternum-thumping rimshots, while his layered pads and staccato counterpoints have an almost three-dimensional feel. Beyond the considerable funk behind his grooves, every element exists in a state of perpetual flux: timbres morphing, proportions shifting, patterns rising and falling in the mix, all of it almost imperceptibly in constant motion.
But Perälä’s fondness for unusual tunings, even if you don’t buy into the more fanciful aspects of Colundi, might help explain why Sunshine 3 feels subtly but crucially different from most electronic music. There’s a shivery, tingly quality to Perälä’s synths. The spectrum seems to shimmer as if swirled with phosphorescence. It’s an almost psychedelic experience, like looking at an object—or even into thin air—and suddenly becoming aware, with a kind of dizzying, microscopic certitude, of every single molecule playing its tiny part.
That vibrancy has something to do with Perälä’s use of dynamics: Unlike a lot of contemporary electronic music, it’s not mastered to make it seem uniformly, oppressively loud. Look at one of these songs’ waveforms in a standard audio-editing tool, and you’ll see that it appears unusually slender compared to the “brick-walled” casualties of the loudness wars. Every sound is given room to breathe, and the results can be intoxicating, as physical as slipping into a warm bath. At the same time, that richness of tone can, after an extended duration, leave you feeling almost queasy: It’s a surfeit of frequency, more than we’re used to.
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