IF NOT IF – Forgiveness EP

Like a lot of people, multi instrumentalist Graeme Ginsburg found himself with a lot of spare time during the pandemic lockdown. He used that time wisely to compose and create new music, which resulted in a pair of instrumental EPs where various electronica based moods and influences collided with a prog-ish mindset. Released under the name If Not If in December 2021, the second of those releases, ‘Forgiveness’, showcases pretty much the whole of the composer’s musical spectrum in a very short space of time. For those looking for new music, it’s the perfect way to get the measure of Ginsburg’s self-made musical world, bouncing between moods and pulling bits from different genres, yet sounding like a complete package in itself.

The first movement wastes no time in sharing something direct, and very energy driven. Opening with mechanised beats, the intro sounds as if it’s about to introduce a bright sounding piece of 80s influenced synth pop, but things quickly divert when bell like sounds supply a strange jazz tune as the main focus. The notes seem disconnected, but never truly within the avant garde, and as expected, a bigger set of beats is eventually introduced to link the pieces together. As this finds its feet, the broader melodies take on tones that sound like a slightly busier version of the concurrent version of Tangerine Dream, especially in the way beats and pops dance beneath the assorted drones. Eventually, with a boosted rhythm, Ginsburg’s wall of electronica takes a Euro turn of a different kind when it sounds as if he’s influenced by early Royksopp…only then to bring everything to a close, just as the listener is likely getting into everything.

Any disappointment at that abrupt ending is soon swept away since the second movement is even more interesting. Here downtempo grooves can be found colliding with weird space rock synths, and eventually after a minute and a half of teasing, a danceable groove hits the listener with great effect. That doesn’t last, of course; the tune reverts to the strange jazz guitar heard briefly during the intro, only to then veer off somewhere else again. In this case, the new soundscape plays like an electronic film soundtrack where hefty beats meet synth generated bleeps and echoing sounds, before semi-industrial vibes creep through the cracks. At the four and a half minute mark, the dance rhythms return – complete with a structured groove that sounds like it’ll break into ‘Theme From S’Express’ if it only had half a chance – but If Not If never wants us to dance. Anything accessible in that vein is rapidly offset by harder, sometimes random electronic noise. This is cool in its own way; it’s just very off kilter. Those willing to stick out this wonky electronic world even further will get the biggest reward at the six and a half minute mark, when something that sounds like KMFDM accompanied by Jeff Beck bursts through the speakers. If there’s any easy validation for this release, it’s here; If Not If’s mix of dance, electronica and soundtrack infused prog really comes to life, if only for a while, making the voyage through this experimental release more than worth the effort.

The final movement, the very short ‘Acceptance’, plays like the score for a haunting movie scene as Ginsburg unleashes a slow and mournful melody, but gives it the unexpected twist of presenting the notes in a semi-atonal way, as if playing back a partly improvised tune on a broken piano. After a few seconds to adjust, this strange music becomes oddly alluring, and when it comes to an abrupt end after exactly one minute, the performer leaves the listener hanging, wondering what’ll happen next – only to discover a defining silence, and the overbearing feeling of feeling displaced. If viewed as a musical metaphor for the uncertain time in which it was created, it makes more sense, but it still doesn’t give this EP the entirely satisfactory end it deserved. Nevertheless, the music leading up to this point has been interesting: sort of contemporary, yet retro; hard edged but accessible; jazzy but melodic; jarring yet alluring…

Quite how Ginsburg managed to lurch between so many musical moods feelings within fourteen minutes feels like a minor miracle, but ‘Forgiveness’ has a lot to offer fans of electronica, vaguely experimental music to the left of prog, and more besides. It won’t necessarily be a regular spin on the mp3 player of your choice, but absorbed once in a while, it supplies a natural extension to the worlds of Jerome Froese, Billy Yfantis, KMFDM’s Captain K and others, whilst adding an occasional jazz element of its own. A curious release, for sure.

August 2023