Archive for July, 2016

Unsounds – 55U

Edward S. Robinson

William Burroughs may have become a figure toward whom many hip musicians gravitated towards in the seventies and eighties, but it remains a rather perverse fact that his enduring influence appears to be stronger in the world of music than in literature. It’s true that many ‘alternative’ musicians and counterculturalists latched onto his lifestyle and biographical details more than his actual output, romanticising the idea of the ‘literary outlaw’ but it would equally be a mistake to underplay the effect his innovations in audio, with his tape recorder experiments extending the concepts surrounding the cut-ups proving hugely influential acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle. It’s a shame, then, that so many of the albums which cite Burroughs as an influence are simply dismal. Burroughs may have referenced various ‘poplar tunes’ in his works and resided in Tangiers in the late 1950s but I haven’t yet established any textual basis to connect Burroughs with bad avant jazz or half-arsed hip-hop.

Yannis Kyriakidies and his collaborators are clearly immense fans of Burroughs, and the CD booklet records that the text for the album is not derived from Naked Lunch, but ‘a Burroughsian cut-up of sorts’. Now, this is problematic in that the cut-up technique came later: there are no cut-ups in Naked Lunch, but I would rather be charitable and embrace the spirit of the album: the words were in fact derived from ‘word frequency analyses’ of the book’s segments, and as such, it’s fair to say that the lyrical content very much captures the essence of the book. I can’t help but be impressed by their referencing of Ian MacFadyn’s essay ‘The Mouth Inside: The Voices of Naked Lunch’, and am equally intrigued by the implication that the album was set to be called simply Naked Lunch: Kyriakideas records in his notes that Robert Ashley, to whom the album is dedicated, implored him to use the title and deal with any copyright issues later, but finds the artist conclude ‘somehow I did get scared by the difficulties.’ But what about the music, and what about the delivery?

The heavy, heavy crackle of vinyl. Scratched as scratched. From the glitching fuzz or white noise croaks the voice of William Burroughs. Slowed, as if drugged. The sound warps and slows, as if the tape is stretches or the turntable drive belt is slipping. As a barbershop quartet croon Gregorian chants to provide an incongruously jaunty backing, his voice is dragged to an unintelligible drone, slower and slower. Finally, all that remains is a faint whistle, clattering and a thumping beat like a heart’s pulse, which eventually, finally slows… and silence. ‘Boy…. Boys…’ sings an operatic tenor voice against a backdrop of springy instrumentation and whistling analogue on ‘Boy’. The vocal harmonies build in layers, skyward. It might not sound like my impression of Naked Lunch, but that’s a reflection of the book’s multifaceted nature.

‘Shakin’’ takes Johnny Kid and the Pirates’ hit and jars and stutters it, one more scratched CD, bowed LP, cassette tape chewed in the machine heads. From the sonic swamp into which the song rapidly descends emerge crawing pterodactyl-like sounds. Like Burroughs’ fragmented, fevered narratives, so the pieces of music are twisted and contorted out of shape, linearity dispensed with in favour of atmosphere and heightened sensation.

Kyriakides returns to the barrelling scrape of badly worn vinyl on ‘Junk World’, while industrial scraping and a babble of voices in multiple languages combine to disorientating effect on ‘Like replicas’, before ‘Speed Days’ moves into the kind of musical territory more commonly associated with Burroughs-related recordings and tributes, with scratching and rattling industrial percussion.

In all, it’s something of a mixed bag, and while I personally don’t love all of the music, I have to admire its spirit.

 

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s the hottest, or second-hottest, night of the year so far, with temperatures teetering at the top of the twenties. I managed to knock off work early to get the train over from York to Leeds in order to conduct an interview before the show, and having managed to chill with a pint in the North Bar for half an hour before the gig, I’m now back underground in the small, dark, box venue that is The Key Club, trying hard to make my £4.20 330ml bottle of Punk IPA last more than five minutes while I sweat my tits off and wait for the first of tonight’s three bands, By Any Means.

Sporting beards, vests, tattoos, and knee-length shorts, the Belfast band crash in hard. Their front man may strongly resemble Brian Blessed, but I suspect he’d be more likely to crush Flash’s oesophagus with his bare hands than proudly declare him to be alive. They crank out a set of intense, dense, throbbing metal and these no shortage of chug ‘n’ grind(core) in their meaty riff-driven tracks.

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By Any Means

Next up, Stoneghost, sporting beards, vests, tattoos, and knee-length shorts take to the stage with a holler of “Leeeeeds! How the fuck is everyone?” Everyone is fucking melting, as it happens, and the relatively restrained response is by no means an indication of a lack of appreciation. In comparison to By Any Means, Stoneghost are sonically denser, the guitar lines more technical, the drums more frenetic, the sound more brutal, and the front man more bullish. He’s got a mean look, and I certainly wouldn’t mess with him. But for all the thunder and aggression, they’ve got some monster choruses, and they earn themselves a one-man slam-dancing moshpit for their efforts.

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Stoneghost

Raging Speedhorn may be purveyors of gnarly sludge metal, but they’re certainly not uncivilised: drummer Gordon Morrison pours beer from bottles into (perspex) glasses before they play. After an inter-band playlist that featured, amongst others, Fudge Tunnel, they walk on to ‘The Heat is On’ by Glen Frey, and yes, the compact basement venue is fucking boiling. With the stage drenched in feedback, vocalists John Loughlin and Frank Regan stand, silent, at the front of the stage, simply leaning out toward the crowd, looking menacing, they hold it for a full minute. This is showmanship, and it’s the band’s commitment to the performance element of the show is integral to the live experience. That said, they’re not posers, by any means: in fact, they’re just a bunch of middle-aged guys with beards and tattoos, wearing vests / T-shirts and long shorts, but they give one hundred percent to the music, and the aggression, the brute force with which the songs are played is so genuine it’s scary. Their contrasting styles work well: Loughlin screams maniacally and looks deranged as he charges he stage, while Regan is almost nonchalant and looks like he’s relishing goading the crowd with ‘come on’ hand gestures before he spits and snarls into the mic.

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Raging Speedhorn

They pile in with ‘The Hate Song’ from second album We Will Be Dead Tomorrow, although much of the set focuses on the new album Lost Ritual, which is fair play, and no bad thing given that it’s a riff-led stonker. ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ and ‘Motorhead’ are slammed down early. Delving back to their debut for ‘Redweed’ elicits a strong reaction, and before long there’s a tornado of bodies frothing in front of the stage.

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Raging Speedhorn

One guy who’s filming the set on his mobile has his phone confiscated and starts whinging like a kid about how he wants to show his friends the show. No doubt he’ll be gutted that his footage won’t include the ball-busting climax: they close the set with a pulverising rendition of ‘Thumper’, and still have it in them to return for an encore of ‘Ten of Swords’.

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Raging Spedhorn

The full set – twelve tracks – may have lasted just under an hour, but no-one’s feeling short-changed. In the blistering heat, they’ve delivered a relentless set that shows Raging Speedhorn are as vital now as ever.

Edition RZ

Christopher Nosnibor

Returning to a brace of recurrent themes, including that of process as touched on in my write-up of Laurent Perrier’s latest collection of ‘one-way collaborations’, process and place are again key factors in the making of Michael Moser’s sprawling double album, Antiphon Stein. The majority of the sound featured on the album derives from Klaus Lang playing organs in various churches – although the sounds here are very different from those featured on Stefan Fraunberger’s recent album.

As the album cover explains in notes replicated in the press release, Antiphon Stein is a site-specific sound installation in the nave and choir of Minoritenkirche in Krems/Stein that engages with the architecture and sound of this church space. The materials used are hanging and lying flat objects of glass and metal that are played with sound pressure transducers. These objects thus become membranes that resonate in their entire surface and mass, exuding sound to the surrounding space. Of course, the album release is not site-specific, but serves the purpose of transporting the listener to that space, and a degee of visualisaion does enhance the listening experience.

The organ sounds on Antiphon Stein are as much a product of their places, the architectural structures and the decorations within them being integral to their textures. In addition to the organ recordings are drums and percussion courtesy of Berndt Thurner, while Moser himself adds glass plates and electronics. But of course, Moser’s primary contribution is the process. Each source sound exists as a ‘compositional miniature’ of three to seven minutes in duration, but processed digitally to form four pieces each with a running time of approximately twenty minutes. The process is therefore absolutely transformative, and as such integral to the realisation of the end product which bears little semblance to the initial input.

In context, the importance of process is not only significant but central, and the process is many ways is about amplification. The input is relatively modest, in that this large-scale work is constructed from an assemblage of much smaller scale recordings. Specifically, the material itself consists of compositional miniatures of three to seven minutes in duration, which have subsequently been fed through a computer to yield four untitled long-form pieces, each occupying a side of vinyl and running for some twenty minutes each.

The scale of the final work is grand, and it’s not simply about the length of the tracks. The atmosphere is immense, and while there are dark shadows, the overall sensation Antiphon Stein inspires one of awe. The sounds, described as ‘small compositional miniatures of a duration of three to seven minutes’, having been combined digitally to form a vast sonic mass, coalesce to create something which sounds entirely natural. And yet, the work is structured, the realisation of an ambitious project of sonic architecture.

Cavernous echoes amplify the depths of slow, low rumbles. Subtle chimes roll and glissando, throb and whistle. Hums hang heavy in slow-turning air. There is nothing hurried about the way the sounds layer and unfurl, and this deliberate, considered approach to the sculpting of the sound is extremely effective in terms of how the engages the listener.

Perhaps a limitation of the format is the fact that a work that readily lends itself to existing as a single, continuous piece is interrupted by the need to turn the record over. Yet, by the same token, this very act necessitates a physical engagement, and render the tactile qualities of the music tangible.

And so it is that the listener becomes engaged in the process, adding a layer to the process beyond the product itself, namely that of participation, of engagement. And ultimately, this is the level on which the album succeeds. It’s impossible to avoid the sequence of process with Antiphon Stein. And yet the process does not render the material sterile: far from it. If anything, the process is vital to bringing the material to life and is precisely what engages the listener.

 

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Clang Records – Clang 042 – June 10th 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Hans Tammen’s Music for Choking Disklavier was one of the first albums to be reviewed here on Aural Aggravation, back in December last year. Deus Ex Machina finds Tammen continue to explore the possibilities of instruments when played in a fashion they were not designed to be played. Since 2000, Tammen has been working with the ‘Endangered Guitar’, and tirelessly developing its functionalities.

Tammen’s website summarises this ‘Guitar-Controlled Live Sound Processing’ in a fshion that’s more intriguing than explicitly instructive: ‘The Endangered Guitar is a journey through the land of unending sonic operations, an interactive hybrid between a guitar and a computer. The software “listens” to the playing, to then determine the parameters of the live sound processing. The guitar is the sound source, but the same sound is also used to control the software. Sounds of the guitar are processed in realtime, pitch and various other parameters of the actual playing serve as control source of the processing. Currently, additional control sources are provided by a Leap Motion Controller.’ Technical yet simultaneously vague, what it boils down to is that Tammen has devised a guitar / computer hybrid, and in 2004 her introduced a random element to the software.

Tammen’s collaboration with Lars Graugaard under the Infernal Machines moniker, which came out earlier this year, was more about utilising the Endangered Guitar in a tempered, moderated and counterbalanced way. In contrast, this live recording, the title of which references the theatrical practice of lowering a ‘god’ character on stage using a cable device in order to resolve a troublesome situation in the plot of a play, and in which Tammen casts himself the role of the actor, lowered to the stage to daringly intervene, is built on improvisation and a wide-ranging exploration of the hybrid instrument’s capabilities.

Tammen writes of the computer crashing while performing, and of how wildly unpredictable the whole setup is, and this very much translates into the audio captured on the album.

Scratched overdriven chords and discords splinter and snarl. Massive, distorted, overloading sludged-up Sunn O)))-like drones rumble on… and on… walls of sound collapse in on themselves. Pickups cut in and out intermittently, feed back and crackle. Occasionally, recognisable notes – albeit notes that sounds like a version of Metal Machine Music are distinctly audible. There are no tunes to be found here, and often, it doesn’t even sound like a guitar. On ‘Transaxle’, the guitar effects the sound of violin strings being scraped, against a droning, wheezing sound like a deflating bellows, while on ‘Interlude at Rake’, it conjures a techno sound, replicating synth stabs and booming bass beats. Rapid, looping modulations, bleeps and squiggles replicate the effect of analogue synths, with sounds which would be at home on a track by Factory Floor or Whitehouse, and elsewhere, dark ambient passages hum, rumble, grind and billow and grating industrial barrages relentlessly assault the senses. At times, it hurts. But it’s also entertaining and often enjoyable: Deus Ex Machina is sonically challenging and one can’t help but contemplate just how the sounds of a guitar can be mutated in real-time to create the diverse and sometimes utterly insane sounds captured here. It’s by no means a novelty album, either: the concept of the Endangered Guitar may sound like something of a gimmick, but Tammen demonstrates that his leading preoccupation is with innovation for the purpose of creating new sound, and more importantly, creating something with those sounds.

 

 

Hans Tammens - Deus Ex Machina

Christopher Nosnibor

Is it wrong to review an event you’ve participated in as a performing artist? Very probably, but in the scheme of things, and in the current global socio-political climate, a minor display of poor etiquette really doesn’t amount to anything. Besides, this is more about what I – as a writer, reviewer, artist and site editor – believe to be the primary function of running a site dedicated to the coverage of non-mainstream music, namely to give artists and acts I believe in exposure. At times, focusing on a niche – albeit a pretty eclectic niche – feels like the audience are likeminded obscurists but I like to think there are things for those likeminded obscurists to discover here. So. I landed a spot initially to provide a spoken-word interlude to some bands – bands I like. The night before the gig, this evolved into a collaboration with one of the bands, one-man experimental noise act Legion of Swine. It was something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

So I rocked up while the soundchecks were getting going to discuss what we were going to do. The little pub venue was bursting with more kit than many all-dayers and everything was pointing to this being one loud night before anyone even got plugged in.

And the lineup! Five acts, three (and a half) over from Leeds for a measly three quid? You have to hand it to both the venue and first-time booker Jim Osman for the wild ambition here. There’s so much that could go wrong.

Neuschlaufen are only just soundchecking fifteen minutes after they’re due to play, and their bassist, Ash, has to be out and on his way to another gig by 7:45. Yet somehow they manage to pull it together and are churning out their heavy, hypnotic grooves in next to no time. Ash Sagar’s hefty, Jah Wobble-esque basslines boom out, underpinned by Jason Wilson’s uncluttered drumming. In cominationm they provide  a solid base for John Tuffen’s textured guitars, and while the set may be short, it builds nicely, going beyond Krautrock and into territories as yet unexplored.

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Neuschlaufen

Immediately after, everyone vacates to cool down in the car park, with its impressive beach art installation. It also serves as a sandy area where people can go and sit and smoke and buy cocktails and stuff and pretend they’re not in a car park in a city pub.

Consequently, I began spouting my first rage monologue (a recent piece entitled ‘Ambition’, if anyone’s interested) to an audience numbering half a dozen (plus sound man and bar staff), but – probably for the first time in the years I’ve been performing – people began to filter into the room by the time I left Legion of Swine to run the set to its natural conclusion of feedback and bewilderment (what other response is there to a man in a pig’s head and lab coat, ambulating the space with a condenser mic taped to his face and a battery-powered 3W Orange amp to his ear?) there was a substantial crowd. Most of them were confused, and more interested in the spectacle than necessarily enjoying watching a 40-year-old man spew vitriol and expletives into a mic, but I had an absolute blast. Literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll and the new rock ‘n’ roll, and the footage of the performance, for which I can take no credit whatsoever, is outstanding.

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Legion of Swine

https://player.vimeo.com/video/175067654

 

One of the benefits of being lower down the bill is that it’s possible to kick back, drink beer and watch the other acts, and while the temperature was steadily rising, it was a joy to sup a cool pint and listen to Fawn Spots road test a set based on their upcoming second album. I‘ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen these guys since they started out as a snotty York-based two-piece and it’s been a source of pride to witness their evolution to a Leeds-based four-piece with a debut album on Fire Records. Their hard-gigging work ethic is admirable, and they’ve got both songs and attitude. If the new material showcased tonight is a little less frenetic than the older stuff, it’s no less intense, and there’s every indication that album number two will be a stormer.

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Fawn Spots

It’s a little over a year since I saw Super Luxury play. Supporting Oozing Wound at the Key Club in Leeds, I’d been impressed by the power of their performance. However, as their gig photos and the anecdote I’d heard from a friend about front man Adam Nodwell delivering vocals for a large portion of a set from inside a box on stage, it seems they’ve been evolving the performance aspect of their show. They pulled out all the stops for this one, Nodwell arriving on stage cowelled in a hooded cloak, stripping it off to reveal some crazy man/badger legs thing that simply looked wrong. With confetti guns bursting all over and crowd-surfing and a general air of crazed mayhem, you might think the music was taking a back seat. But you’d think wrong: with enough back-line to shake a venue three times to size to its foundations, they blasted through a ferocious set with terrifying vigour and psychopathic precision. They may be zany in their presentation, but when it comes to the songs and slamming them in hard, they’re entirely serious.

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Super Luxury

Irk are pretty fucking serious, too. It’s barely been a fortnight since I caught their set in Manchester supporting Berlin’s heads, and while they were pretty ripping them, tonight they really do take things to another level. Of course, when I previously stated that they sound like fellow Leeds band Blacklisters, I meant it as a compliment: Blacklisters are one of my favourite bands of recent years. They’ve delivered two gut-wrenchingly hefty albums and are one of the most consistent live acts you’ll find. But it’s on this outing that I first truly appreciate Irk in their own right as the drum / bass / vocal trio lumber, lurch and piledrive their way through a full-throttle set. Jack Gordon – an affable, articulate chap off stage – comes on like a man possessed, hurling himself about the low stage amid crushing bass riffs and powerhouse percussion. While the power trio format is often lionised as the optimal band configuration, there’s even less room to hide when there are only two instruments and a vocalist. And so it is that Irk are tight as hell and double the intensity of the playing to compensate the absence of instruments and bodies on stage. In contrast to Super Luxury, here’s little by way of over showmanship on display here, and instead it’s all about whipping up a blistering intensity through directness and unadulterated force.

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Irk

With not a weak act on the jam-packed, super-value bill, and every act giving every last drop of juice to their performance, this is going to stand as one of the gigs of the year. The venue may not have been packed to capacity, but there’s no question that those who were there will be talking about it. That’s precisely how legends are made, and I’d wager that that at some point in the future, tonight will go down as one of those landmark events. And if I’m wrong… fuck it, it was a great night.

Baskaru – karu:39

Christopher Nosnibor

Within the domain of the avant-garde, there is a recurring thread of self-reflexivity, and a focus on ‘the process’ which borders on obsessive. Many artists have offered theories on the benefits of collaboration, with the practices and methods of another person facilitating fresh approaches to creative processes. William Burroughs and Brion Gysin famously cited Napoleon Hill’s bestselling self-improvement book from 1937, Think and Grow Rich, having latched onto the concept of ‘the third mind,’ whereby the coming together of two individuals brings forth an unseen collaborator in the form of a third, superior mind. Needless to say, collaboration is not for everyone, but Laurent Perrier is very much an advocate, as this release which finds him working in collaboration with three notable artists, namely Francisco Lopez, Tom Recchion, and Christian Zanesi is testament to. But all is not quite s it may seem: Perrier’s Plateforme series, of which this is the second release, offers an alternative interpretation of what collaboration means, with the tracks each standing as what he terms a ‘one-way collaboration’.

The idea works on the basis that Perrier takes sounds provided by his ‘collaborators’ and uses those sounds – and nothing else – to create the pieces. This approach naturally pieces. Raises questions around the nature of the relationship between the artist and the ‘text’ (in the broad sense of the term). Is Perrier the architect, designing and constructing the tracks from raw materials? Is he even the composer? Or do these pieces represent remixes of unmixed material? To what extent can the ownership of each piece be aligned to the collaborator, and how much falls to Perrier, the one who sculpts the raw materials into something? In terms of process, one is also compelled to ask, to what extent do the ‘original’ sounds define the character of each individual artist’s work?

There is a definite sense that Perrier has worked with a strong intention to preserve the identity and integrity of each of his collaborators in these three pieces, and here I would return to Burroughs and Gysin, who claimed “A page of Rimbaud cut up and rearranged will give you quite new images. Rimbaud images — real Rimbaud images — but new ones”. This is a premise with which Perrier would appear to concur: his aim is not to vandalise or otherwise desecrate or stamp his own identity on their sounds, but simply to shape and order them. So, a collection of Francisco Lopez sounds arranged, mutated and mixed results in a nee track by Francisco Lopez, forged with the assistance of Laurent Perrier.

And it works, with or without detailed knowledge of either the work of Laurent Perrier or his collaborators, with Plateforme #2 featuring three long-for tracks which explore texture and tone in a variety of ways, and with each track displaying a distinct ‘personality’.

Francisco Lopez’s material emerges as screeding scrapes and drones, barrelling hums, crackles and slow-motion explosions, fizzing static. Harsh blasts of drilling, rumbling earthworks and abstract noise fill the air. Elongated hisses, like air escaping from valves or burst pipes and storm-force winds all amalgamate to create big, big sounds and a sense of immense space.

Hinting at vintage science fiction and horror movies, long, low, ambient drones hang and turn slowly, to be rent with shrill shrieks of treble, and blizzards of looping lasers to conjure a strange, alien landscape in sound in the Tom Recchion collaboration. Jump cuts extend the filmic analogy. Spectral tracings haunt the longest of the three pieces, with Christian Zanesi’s sounds building from a whisper to a scream; around the mid-point, the piece has evolved to a veritable tornado of sound which blasts from the speakers with breathtaking force.

 

Laurent Perrier - Plateforme 2

 

Laurent Perrier – Plateforme #2 Online at Baskaru

Front & Follow – F&F044 – 8th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With this release, Front & Follow inaugurate a new series of split cassette and download releases. The premise is that the artists are given a side apiece, and while the idea is that they’re encouraged to collaborate, it’s essentially down to the acts involved. This first ‘Blow’ release features a total of nineteen tracks, with ten from Hoofus, seven from IX Tab and a brace of joint efforts.

The ten Hoofus track are first, and if the titles, in their evocations of ancient lore, mysticism and history, seem at odds with the bubbling synth cycles which form their fabric, then it’s a reflection of the infinite contradictions which define Hoofus’ enigmatic sound. Shimmering, throbbing and needling, the scratchy, fuzzy tones cover the full sonic spectrum in infinite, iridescent hues. Occasionally sliding into unusual time signatures and oddly dissonant passages – the wonky keys of ‘Twentythree Seven’ shouldn’t work, but instead it’s rather magical – their ten tracks are beautifully weird, and weirdly beautiful. The notes roll and bend, wobble and warp, layering up to form a rich latticework. The effect is to create music that transcends music, enveloping the listener in a thick, pulsating aural blanket. It’s an immersive, multisensory experience, akin to how I would imagine simultaneously being under water and watching the Arora Borealis.

IX Tab’s eight tracks are quite different in tone: more overtly electronic, bleeping, swooshing and rippling notes scurry across one another in vintage sci-fi style. The dizzyingly hectic compositions are contrasted by sedate ambient segments. Samples – snippets of dialogue and lopped phrases – feature heavily, and there’s an overtly experimental air to the tracks. Trilling pipes and rattling chimes flit alongside woozy, opiate drones and church song. The nine-minute ‘The Herepath Comes Away’ is a magnificently expansive, atmospheric work, and something of a standout as it leads the listener on a curious journey of the mind.

The two collaborative tracks, credited to Hoofus & IX Tab, work precisely because they sound like a hybrid of the two acts. ‘The Ministry of Ontological Insecurity’ features sampled voices repeating the statement ‘I don’t believe in me’ (occasionally interspersed with variants ‘I don’t believe in you / him/ her / them’) over a drifting dark ambient backdrop fractured with incidental sonic incursions. ‘The Ploughs & Machines’, which closes the album also incorporates samples and woozy electro oddness with shifting time signatures to mesmerising and disorienting effect.

Individually and collectively, Hoofus and IX Tab have conjured an album that reaches for the outer limits and transports the listener to them and then beyond.

 

Hoofus   IX Tab