worriedaboutsatan – Blank Tape

Posted: 24 November 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

This Is It Forever – TIIF031 – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve long been a fan of worriedaboutsatan: on their emergence in 2006, their, a hybrid of ambient and low-key dance music, fused with a rare focus on dynamics, positioned them as purveyors of some kind of electronic post-rock. No-one else was doing anything quite like it. With couple of EPs and an album under their belts, the duo – Gavin Miler and Thomas Ragsdale – morphed into the more overtly techno Ghosting Season. Returning but briefly with a single in 2010, it wasn’t until last year’s second album proper that they really made their return. Now it seems that while marking their tenth anniversary, they’re making up for lost time. And still no one else is doing anything quite like what they’re doing.

Opener ‘A Way Out’ immediately trips against expectations, beginning with tweeting birdsong n chiming piano notes which build anticipation of a slow-building piece that blossoms as layers emerge fluidly. Instead, it ends swiftly an abruptly, with the beat-driven trancey electronica of ‘The Violent Sequence’ taking things in a radically different direction. It’s anything but violent, at least on the surface, but as is often the case with worriedabotsatan’s layered, nuanced arrangements, there’s something menacing hiding beneath the surface.

‘This Restless Wing’ introduces vocals to the mix, courtesy of the gliding falsetto of Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema. If the idea of the wilfully low-key duo going all-out for the big-name collaboration as a lure to the album seems incongruous, it’d worth bearing in mind they’ve previously been featured on various TV shows, and, more recently, the immensely acclaimed Adam Curtis documentary, HyperNormalisation. In other words, nothing is beyond the realms of worriedaboutsatan. And nor should it be: these guys are masters of stealth, and Blank Tape is an album which wears many cloaks.

‘Forward into Night’ approaches almost invisibly, building a dense, murky atmosphere. The ticking cymbals create a tension, while the sparse beats are subdued, and ‘Lament’, a collaboration with Bristol electro duo Face+Heel, is haunting, ethereal. The album’s second track to feature vocals, it’s sparse and understated, and Sinead McMillan brings something unique to the song’s dynamics. The filmic qualities of the piano-led title track are undeniable and it’s a compelling piece which contrasts with the bubbling synths of the closer, ‘From a Dead Man… Part 2’ which plays out the album and drives it home with a return to pulsing beats, undulating sub-bass and rippling synth motifs.

Blank Tape is still distinctly worriedaboutsatan, but also marks quite something of a departure from its predecessor, Even Temper. It’s a lot less beaty, for a start, and a lot less bassy. The samples are virtually non-existent. Moreover, while it’s still richly textured, the textures here are smoother, the frequencies less geared toward eliciting an unprovoked physical reaction. It’s perhaps the sparsest and most minimal work they’ve created to date, but it’s highly detailed and if anything, its subtlety represents a new advancement and refinement of their approach to music-making.

Blank Tape is by no means an immediate album. It’s an album to absorb, ponder and reflect on, and which yields more with repeat listens. It’s certainly not an album made for TV, but these are strange times. This is the instrumental soundtrack to those times, and the next few years will surely see TV being made for this music. Blank Tape will likely see the band achieve the world domination they deserve by subliminal means.

 

ALBUM COVER

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