With the benefit of hindsight, Cosmin TRG‘s debut LP, Simulat, makes more sense within the man’s trajectory as a producer now than it did when the record saw its original release back in 2011. Perhaps his sophomore full-length is fated for a similar path, because Gordian comes a bit out of leftfield at first blush.

Cosmin TRG (a.k.a. Cosmin Nicolae) has stated that Gordian is very much an LP with a concept behind it. The album is said to be concerned with “discerning between real and replicated, authentic and contrived.” As the Romanian-born producer explains in the accompanying press release: “Coping with facts, objects, and bodies, the necessity of ‘making it,’ fear of failure, and fear of ‘not being happy’ are today’s topics, and Gordian is my attempt at an exploration of those issues.” While it may be very easy to enjoy this entire record without having any knowledge of Nicolae’s conceptual aims, being aware of them makes the listener pay attention to certain details that might otherwise be overlooked.

The album derives its title from the myth of the Gordian knot, a knot so tangled and complicated in its tying that it was impossible to undo. In the same way, many of the melodies and rhythms Cosmin TRG presents across Gordian‘s 11 tracks are tangled and interwoven into intricate patterns that are not easily unraveled; it’s a noticeable step away from the sweeping chords and more traditional melodic phrasings which marked Simulat and much of his earlier work. Furthermore, the reflective nature of the record’s theme can be heard in the emotional and at times almost uplifting moods presented on songs like opener “New Structures of Loving” or “Defeated Hearts Club”—both of which employ Apparat-reminiscent melodic builds, but never feel overwrought with sentimentality.

With the exception of “Vertigo”—a song which originally saw a release as the a-side of last year’s “Vertigo” b/w “Sommer” single—it’s difficult to find a production on Gordian that sounds primed for dancefloor play. Although many of the cuts are built with the same sturdy low end and space-age depth that Cosmin TRG’s productions have employed for some time, it’s hard to imagine the rest of his LP’s offerings being used as anything other than momentary tangents in the course of a DJ set. Still, that doesn’t mean that Gordian is without its highlights. Aforementioned opener “New Structures for Love” is a gorgeous outing, one which is recalls Kompakt-style melodics while moving through the sort of robust techno structure Nicolae has become known for. “Defeated Hearts Club” and the enchanted spirals of “Divided by Design” take on a similar shape, while the far-too-brief “To Touch is to Divert” offers the most Simulat-like offering with its thick chords and straight-ahead bounce.

Altogether, Gordian is a solid listen and another LP that upholds Cosmin TRG’s deserved reputation as an inventive producer whose output continues to remain dependable. His latest is far from a breakout record, however, and does little to change the man’s fate as an artist who—for better or worse—can be hard to keep up with, especially as he refuses to stay in a single sonic space for very long.