Posts Tagged ‘Almost Sugar’

Despot – 3rd November 2021

Christiopher Nosnibor

Ukraine continues to reveal itself as having a throbbing underground scene, producing some really high-quality nuggets of experimental and exploratory music. ‘Almost Sugar’ is one of those short albums, occupied with a single longform composition on each side of a cassette or 12” record – and with the wait times and increasingly prohibitive cost of producing short runs of vinyl die to myriad factors including but not exhausted by the pandemic, the cassette is becoming ever more the format of choice.

The cassette is something of an unexpected format to experience a renaissance, largely on account of some hipsterish nostalgia for a format that formed an integral part of the formative years for so many of us. It’s very much a rose-tinted hue: memes about pencils (I always used a Bic biro myself) fail to convey the anguish of a chewed tape that had spooled out, and never mind the hassle of endless hours rewinding and fast forwarding to locate specific tracks, and so on. Much of the cassette experience was centred around frustration, and it was simply something we accepted because that was the format we had, and the only recordable (and re-recordable) one at that. Still, it would be wrong to downplay the joy of the compilation (we didn’t all call them mixtapes back then). But also, there are now practical reasons for the return to the cassette as the physical format of choice, and that’s largely down to cost and availability.

However, as Neill Jameson recently wrote in Decibel Magazine, supply chain issues may soon prove to dent the demand for the cassette again, and while on a practical level, I can’t say I’m too disappointed, on a principal level, I very much am: the two sidedness of the format is closest to replicating the vinyl experience, and the limitations of length have a close relationship to duration of recordings. Format does matter; physical mediums to matter. Necessity isn’t only the mother of invention it’s also the driver of discipline. Two fifteen to twenty-minute sides require considerably more focus than a continuous seventy-two minute expanse.

Title track ‘Almost Sugar’ is fifteen minutes of bubbling analogue exportation, with a whole lot of hissing static and polytonal drones and hums combining to for a slow-twisting, heavily atmospheric work. It’s a high concept piece, constructed around the way in which the sugar crystal ‘changes its structure under any impact’. Consider this fact next time you’re stirring your tea or coffee, or tossing a couple of spoonfuls over your morning cereal, or maybe whipping up a cake batter.

‘Superdry People’, the piece which occupies side two, is darker, murkier, the sound of a slumbering beast awakening, an ominous dungeon rumble emanating from the some subterranean chamber or even the bowels of the earth. According to the accompanying notes, ‘Superdry People’ is ‘a play about «superdry people», who are heading to the pool, apparently to «soak off». Splashes of some substances, mechanisms, fragments of secular talks’, but the title simply makes me think of tossers in trendy expensive coats, and as a London-based brand feigning the exoticism of being from Japan with it’s ‘Superdry JPN’ logos and shit, it’s one that inspires ire that extends to the people who purchase their gear. I hope that this yawning sonic abyss is the conduit which will suck all the real Superdry people into its vortex, never to return. We can but hope.

But while we’re waiting for the tossers to evaporate, this is a perfect album to immerse yourself in.

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