Australian plunderphonics and electronic music producer Nick Bertke, widely known on YouTube and Soundcloud as Pogo, is known for commanding his genre like no other. For years, Bertke has tirelessly worked to upload one quality song after another, each one highly emotional and nostalgic. His most popular tracks are those where he takes Disney films and composes music using nothing but samples taken from them. However, he does produce a balanced amount of original content as well and his records usually include an even mix of his two styles. His seventh studio album, “Ascend,” released on Feb. 22, is no exception. The record features the usual emotional appeals and quirky sampling that are present on every other Pogo record. Unfortunately, the album feels half-baked at times thanks to a few poorly placed, repetitive tracks.
The record gets off to a great start with the intro track “Soul Shine.” It begins with some warm and billowy piano chords before blossoming into a bouncy, funky groove complete with jazz synths, energetic drumline percussion and the rhythmic slapping of a bass guitar. The bridges of the track are an amusing collection of various sound effects and vocal samples in Pogo’s signature style that really help to break the track up and give it more lasting appeal.
The first film-themed track on the album, “Boy and Bear,” is a melancholic trip down memory lane utilizing samples from Winnie the Pooh. The deep electronic synths used as the basis for the rest of the instrumentation give the track a distinctly analog feel to it, like something you can just barely still remember from your childhood. The heavy bottom end of the track gives the electronic kick drum a heavy, punchy quality that drives the track forward almost like a heartbeat. Layered on top of this melancholic instrumentation are voice samples from everyone’s favorite yellow bear and his human friend Christopher Robin. But whereas the lines used would normally sound happy-go-lucky, the instrumentation gives them an interesting tinge of sadness and longing.
Not every track on the record appeals to some sort of deeper emotional connection, which is generally the case on Pogo projects. On past projects like his album “Weightless” from 2016, the flow of these tracks with the more emotional ones was perfect. Here, however, Bertke seems to make a few questionable choices. A prime example of this is the cut “Take Those Pills,” a two-minute long interlude that is loud and bombastic and over the top. While the track itself is humorous and entertaining when listened to on its own, the context of its placement on the tracklist only serves to absolutely kill the album’s momentum. This is because it directly follows “Boy and Bear” and “Grow Fonder,” two of the records most emotional and thought provoking tracks. The transition is jarring and confusing and the track doesn’t seem like the best choice for changing up the direction of the album’s flow.
Bertke will most likely never lose his reputation as one of the most revered plunderphonics artists to surface on the internet, due in large part to his nearly flawless discography. But it’s almost impossible for any artist to please every listener every time. “Ascend” is not a bad record by any means. In fact, the majority of the tracks are great in their own rights. But a few repetitive filler tracks and questionable flow choices make the experience a little less enjoyable than it could be.