Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Christopher Nosnibor

The third – or fourth, depending on your source – album by electronic duo Akustikkoppler, is a work of starkness, of austerity, and a collision of vintage and contemporary, and quite the contrasting experience.

The cover looks like a photo I may have taken from my daily wanderings. I’m not saying it’s a good cover or a bad cover, this is merely an observation. The duo would likely say the same about the cover itself. It’s a snapshot that speaks for itself of the nature off people in our all-waste capitalist society.

I feel an almost inevitable shiver of nostalgia listening to this, despite the fact that the album’s style and sound predate my musical awareness. Instead, it makes me feel a nostalgic tug for my teens, when I was introduced to all of the weird and wonderful, experimental and starkly harsh music that had emerged in the late 70s and early 80s, to which Alles Muß Raus demonstrates a clear lineage.

As the blurb explains, ‘Inspired by the rough commercial industrial surroundings of Schusters Studio back then in Hamburg, Alles Muß Raus was produced on vintage and modern equipment. The two artists combine past and future to a sparkling, shimmering darkness.’ And industrial it is – not in the Ministry sense, but in the spirit of the early innovators utilising primitive synths, drum machines, and tape loops. And it ignites a spark of excitement, in that even now, this kind of music doesn’t sit comfortably with anything in the sphere of ‘normal’ music. The nostalgia, then, is in remembering how hearing TG, Test Department, DAF, et al for the first time completely changed my world, and my concept of what ‘music’ could be.

The analogue drum machines, mixed to recreate the sound of the late 70s and early 80s with a dominant synthetic snare is a defining feature. The first track, ‘Entrümpelung’ is a head-cracking, gut-smashing sub-bass groove that’s anything but vintage and pulls you in before the bass-driven churn of ‘Mitnahmequalität’ steps boldly into grinding, bass-led Throbbing Gristle-influenced industrial. In contrast, ‘Mittenmang’ is almost playful, with tempo changes and some d‘n’b rapidfire drumming bouncing alongside some busy, bloopy electronica. One of the shorter tracks, ‘Horses And Carriages Burn’ hints in the direction of The Cure’s ‘Carnage Visors’ while recreating the spirit of ‘Pornography’.

Entirely instrumental and assimilating so many disparate elements, despite some insistent grooves and accessible, melodic ,moments, Alles Muß Raus certainly isn’t a pop album, but contains many elements of electropop, even if the shade is turned down to twelve. While Kraftwerk may be an obvious touchstone, the vibe that radiates from Alles Muß Raus is much more DAF, with insistent, snare-driven beats driving relentlessly to define the sound and structure of a varied and meticulously arranged set.

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Mille Plateaux – 20th January 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Less than a year on from Faces & Fragments, Neuro… No Neuro are back again with another substantial instalment of scratchy, glitchy electronica that’s rich in retro vibes.

Each piece is short – around two minutes – and drifts into the next. As the air floats past carrying soft analogue notes on a gentle waft, you suddenly realise you’re already five tracks in. It’s not that Compartments is undemanding, so much as that it’s subtle, meaning that it circulates in the atmosphere without dominating your headspace in an intrusive fashion.

The beats are backed off, even as they stutter and troll, flicker and jar. There’s a softness about the sounds and the way these woozy, warped snippets trickle together that’s almost soporific, especially when tinkling chimes cascade in ripples.

The Mille Plateaux website describes Compartments as Kawaii-Glitch (Kawaii being the Japanese culture of cuteness), noting that ‘The very artificial glitch aesthetics are not, as usual, depicted by a cold and sterile feeling; but quite contrary have the qualities of an artificial sweetener… Be careful when associating kawaii with just sweet, innocent or cute notions… just as Anime often masks grown-up topics with ‘childish’ surface structures, the album underlies a soft darkness & melancholy. Sometimes the unspeakable comes in disguise. Like the fashion style Yami-Kawaii, a bizarre mixture of kawaii-aesthetics with questions of depression and suicide, this album offers a mixillogical splice of life in which every second might take a turn into the irreal and eerie. To make distinctions between what is real and what are delusions, dreams or nightmares, emotional highs and lows, becomes impossible. In some sense it is ‘too much’ while still minimalistic in style.’

On the penultimate track, ‘Just Crumbling,’ things seem to come apart at the seams as stammering beats fly away from sounds firing in all directions like breaking springs. The temperature drops further at the finale, as those split sprockets echo into the cold night air and as the final sounds of the bonus-length last track, We’ll be Seeing You Soon’, which clanks and echoes for a fill four minutes, fade away, I sit, full, aurally content and calm… and worried. What subliminal toxicity has this album dispersed internally? How will I feel about Compartments once I begin to process and digest its multi-faceted contents? I don’t know but then, I don’t know if II trust what I heard, or my instincts on how to react. There is definitely more to Compartments than first meets the ear.

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Medication Time Records – 27th January 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

My first encounter with Fågelle was supporting Big | Brave in Leeds last spring. Despite suffering some technical difficulties and being on before a band so mighty that I still haven’t quite got over the experience, I wrote that ‘Fågelle proves to be an absolute revelation’.

The release of her new album, album Den svenska vreden (The Swedish rage), affords proper time to digest, and to reflect on this. And live, I remarked on her understated presence and the variety, shifting from quiet restraint to some heavy noise, and with experimental elements. Those are all present here, to forge what the press release set out as ‘collage-like soundscapes made with twisted field recordings, mobile memories, digital trash, dark electronics, and howling choirs while moving between harmony and noise.’

For the most part, Den svenska vreden is subtle. There are soft, electronic washes and the slightest of glitches ripple and stutter almost subliminally. The layers rub against one another to create tensions, but still, the overall mood of the album is comparatively light, particularly given the album’s title and her explanation of the album’s context and contents.

“I was so angry and had been for years.” explains Fågelle, “A kind of adult rage that was new to me. Feeling forced to accept and stay in circumstances making me miserable. To patiently suffer now for a better future. But also, a subdued Swedishness that doesn’t hold space for flaring, tearing, wallowing rage but rather pushes it down from the surface and inwards. Question is, where does the rage go, and which forms does it take? That became a starting point for the record where I kept exploring my personal boiling points, pressures and releases, where to hold my rage, in words and in the body, as a swede and as a woman.”

She continues, “Swedish social norms value the level headed and emotionally subdued. There is a pressure put especially hard on women to function like social glue and to always be consensus oriented. It’s a pressure to practice self control, a self choking of non-agreeable ideas and feelings. Rage being one of them.”

As such, one senses the rage is very much tempered by the Swedish restraint. And that’s something that there is a strong sense of, listening to Den svenska vreden – that there is in fact far more beneath the surface, simmering.

‘Slavar’ is dark and tense, tentative, mysterious. In contrast, ‘Aldrig mera här’ is almost minimal pop in its flavour. As a prelude to the soft folk reflections of ‘Fåglar’, which in parts invites comparisons to Suzanne Vega while in others goes quite wonderfully weird, ‘Tredje långgatan tretton’ begins as hushed ambience and builds into dramatic strings. It’s on the title track that the rage burst forth, manifesting as two minutes of mangled noise, and the album culminates in a thumping burst of beat-driven electronica which I wouldn’t go so far as to describe as dance, but it’s certainly got enough groove to get down to.

There’s a sense that Den svenska vreden reflects its creator: complex, inscrutable, enigmatic, and multi-faceted.

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10th December 2022

Gintas K wraps up a(nother) truly prodigious year with a collaboration – and an apology. The Lithuanian sound artist hasn’t strayed so far from his experimental electronic roots, at least fundamentally, but at the same time, Sorry Gold does mark something of a substantial and significant departure.

As the accompanying text explains, ‘this recording was made on stage at the Project Arts Center in Dublin, during the making of the film Sorry Gold Emily Aoibheann. The artists improvised to the visual landscape of the rehearsal space, stage design and dancers…’ it was funded by the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon and Dublin City Council, supported by Dublin Fringe Festival, add the performances premiered as a part of Dublin Fringe Festival at Project Arts Centre in September 2019.’

With additional production and resigned from the original project, the album is only sort of a soundtrack, and the track numbering is both confusing and frustrating, with #1, #2, #4, #3, being followed by #4 #2, #2 #2, #4 #3 and #3 #2 before the more sequentially logical #5 and #6 conclude this most eclectic listening experience.

Replacing the glitching frenzy of bubbling, frothy digital frenzy that is Gintas K’s trademark is a much sparser, more minimal approach to composition, with single notes that sound like ersatz strings being plucked, atop quivering drones and low-rumbling organ sounds that fliker erratically like gas lights and resonating out into a spacious room. It has an almost orchestral feel, albeit distilled to absolute zero. The notes are a little fuzzy and ring out into emptiness, while the haunting vocals of Michelle O’Rourke are utterly mesmerising and border on transcendental. In combination, the atmosphere is deeply absorbing and heavily imbued with a spiritual, other-worldly element.

The first piece introduces us to a strange, haunting space beyond the familiar, and while it’s not by any means unpleasant, it is disconcerting, and sets the tone, ahead of ‘Sorry Gold #2’, which is melancholic, brooding, spaced-out notes hovering while O’Rourke ventures into almost operatic territories. It’s a not only a different atmosphere, but a different mood when placed alongside K’s other works: it feels a lot more serious, and has a different kind of energy, a different kind of intensity. I’m accustomed to feeling bewildered by the frenetic kineticism and abundant playfulness of his work. Sorry Gold isn’t entirely without joy, but it is much darker and much, much slower-paced, delivering a different kind of intensity.

It’s not until ‘Sorry Gold #4’ that things even hint at K’s more characteristic and overtly electronic noodling, and as the album progresses, we do encounter more of his feverish electronic tendencies, notably on the grinding ripples of ‘Sorry Gold #3’, but they’re much more restrained. ‘#4 #2’ brings a surging swampy wash of noise that’s a buzzing, grinding industrial blast of fizzing distortion. O’Rourke, barely audible in the sonic storm, sounds lost, detached.

Of the ten tracks, only two are under four minutes in length, and the pair use these extended formats to really push outwards: the ten-minute ‘Sorry Gold #4 #3’ brings helicoptering distortion that crashes in waves, at times low and rumbling, at others, crackling and fizzing with treble, and it creates a different kind of disturbance. Dissonance howls desolately on ‘#3 #2’, and so does , wracked with pain and spiritual anguish.

By the time we arrive at the brief and delicate bookend that is ‘Sorry Gold #6’, one feels inexplicably drained. The experience is somewhat akin to wandering ancient tunnels by flickering candlelight, observing ancient wall art while a subliminal mind-control experiment blasts random frequencies directly into your brain. You’re left feeling somehow detached, vaguely bewildered and bereft. And you feel deeply moved. Sorry Gold is special: Sorry Gold is bleak and harrowing, but it’s solid gold.

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Dret Skivor – 23rd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Swedish microlabel Dret Skivor may be many things, primarily a champion of the obscure and staunchly uncommercial (hell, they even put out a split release with one of my spoken work / noisewerks this time last year), but exuberant is not one of the adjectives that comes to mind. But look at those exclamation marks in the title!

But following the customary roughly annual Procter / Poulsen collaboration, they’re putting out a bonus release – release twenty-three, no less – to celebrate the label’s second anniversary. It’s a just cause for celebration and a display of public exuberance, not least of all because the catalogue they’ve swiftly amassed is a treasure trove of wonderfully weird and dark experimental noise, and this three-tracker featuring Fern and Fåntratt is no exception.

Fåntratt’s fifteen-minute excursion into harsh noise wall sits between ‘frolics from Fern! It’s an F-macka!!’ the blurb tells us (which I assume is a good thing, since my ears tell me it is). And the contrast works well: the two Fern tracks are brief, at least in comparative terms, with the five minutes of ‘Field Trip’ pulling together dark, damp, ominous ambience and achingly spiritual choral singing which drifts and glides in and out of the nightmarish soundscape. It creaks and rumbles and thunders with deep, murky tones, the vocals rendering the experience even more unsettling. ‘Heaven in my Hands’ couldn’t be more different – a snarling blast of industrial/grindcore crossover, where everything is so mangled and distorted it’s impossible to make anything out other than the broken-sounding beats. It’s as heavy as hell.

Yet, perversely, it feels like light relief after the release’s centrepiece. Fåntratt’s ‘Morot’ is fifteen minutes of high-end hell. It’s harsh even by harsh noise all standards. And whereas many of the Dret releases have been HNW exemplars, the majority have featured subtle variations in tone or frequency: not this cut. This is pure HNW. We’re in Vomir territory, but pitch-shifted up a few notches to a pitch that drills through the brain penetrates to the core.

I did, for a moment, think I had detected some slight sonic shift, but then realised, after further exploration, that this was simply an effect created by moving my head to one side or the other in relation to the stereo speakers. Swallow, move, it sounds different for a fleeting second, but the fact is that this is solid noise, a sheer and unmoving wall of noise of the kind that will induce migraine, tinnitus, and seizures. Possibly. While some noise can be quite soothing – admittedly, I speak for myself here, but can’t be alone in finding this – Fåntratt’s ‘Morot’ is torturous, tension-building, painful-inducing. It’s powerful stuff, and the perfect party tune for Dret’s second birthday. Here’s to the next two years.

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New label Dead Music Club, which specialises in limited-edition cassettes, today announced its first three releases to showcase what they described as their ‘fledgling catalogue’.

The Stoke-based label, which is pushing the parameters not only of music, but of underground by shunning social media and making news of its releases available via mailing list subscription, is kicking off with a compilation of ‘Stoke weirdness’, which features Aural Aggravation faves Omnibadger, as well as the debut EP from ramshackle punks Dog Train on 10” vinyl, and an EP of mangled noise courtesy of one Christopher Nosnibor in his Noisenibor guise:

DMC-001 ‘DeadMusicClub’ cassette – a collection of Stoke weirdness £5
DMC-002 ‘Extractions EP’ cassette – Chris Nosnibor documents extractor fans £5
DMC-003 ‘Dog Train EP’ – Dog Train’s first EP on 10” vinyl £20

To subscribe, and for order details, go here.

There will be a launch event at Captain’s Bar, Stoke, at 8pm on December 30th.

PNL Records – 16th December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Nice… as you’d probably expect from this three-way collaboration, Time Sound Shape is a work of atmospheric instrumental experimentalism with some strong jazz leanings. That’s not smooth or mellow jazz, of course: more the weirdy, spaced-out non-musical kind of jazz. So not so much nice, as awkward, uncomfortable, challenging. This is not jazz of the cardigan and slippers variety, and you certainly wouldn’t play it at a dinner party, apart from perhaps at thee point when your remaining guests have overstayed their welcome and you want them to fuck off home.

Time Sound Shape is a single continuous piece with a running time of a full-length album, clocking in at precisely forty-nine minutes, and it’s a great example of intuitive improvisational collaborative work, and it sounds far better than the clunky text-based cover art suggests.

There are some dissonant, discordant, even outright difficult to digest crescendos, and moments of queasy chamber orchestral meanderings, as they tweet and toot together in a sort of droning solidarity. It begins gently enough, with some trilling woodwind courtesy of Frode Gjerstad who brings flute, and clarinet to the party as well as sax, but it doesn’t take long before things shift in numerous different directions.

There are moments that almost feel ‘continental’ in vibe, perhaps not least of all on account of Kalle Moberg’s accordion work. And all the while, Paal Nilssen-Love brings texture and atmosphere with his application of a wide selection of Paiste gongs, bringing doomy dolorous chimes and rolling thunder. At times, the crashing gongs are strong enough to vibrate the internal organs within the ribcage.

In many respects, Time Sound Shape delivers precisely what you would expect from these three musicians coming together, and yet at the same time, it brings more. It’s a richly textured work, that evolves as it progresses, and it never stays stull, and yet the changes are often subtle. Time drifts and bends as the sounds transition, changing shape. Let yourself be carried.

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Midira Records – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This album is, as the title suggests, a soundtrack work. Although released under the moniker Houses of Worship, it’s essentially the second album by Thisquietarmy x Hellenica.

The summer of 2020 saw Eric Quach (thisquietarmy) and Jim Demos (Hellenica) come together to record a collaborative album, which emerged as Houses of Worship, described as ‘an epic work of experimental industrial ambient, is an ode to dying buildings and the unwelcome gentrification of neighborhoods’.

This, the follow-up, came about after they ‘played their first concerts in the streets of Montreal from inside of a cube truck. These performances were filmed and recorded to produce "TQAXHLNKA: MIGRATION,” a twenty-two-minute experimental art documentary and an accompanying soundtrack. The film simulated the cautionary tale of what the Montreal arts and music scene could look like in a post-pandemic world. As the title suggests, it reflects the highly concerning exodus of artists constantly being divided and pushed out further from their community.’

At twenty-two minutes in duration, it’s a minute short of the magic spot, but this is a magnificently atmospheric work that goes beyond dark ambience and ventures into the vastly cinematic, space-drifting expansiveness that transports the listener beyond the terrestrial domain.

The album contains more audio than the film’s running time, and drags the listener through a bleak journey which articulates via the medium of sound the themes and scenes which preoccupy the duo, who explain, ‘With the current struggles linked to the pandemic restrictions, we have seen the acceleration of the gentrification process in neighborhoods where the heart of these activities takes place. As a result, a multitude of venues, studios and artistic spaces – places used for exchanging ideas with our peers and building communities meant to inspire and nurture our souls had to shut down.’

The tone is dark, the textures industrial, yet tinged with echo-heavy melancholy, a combination of anger, emptiness, and sadness. The soaring drones inspire a certain elevation, while the gritty grind is the sound of construction, regeneration. Gentrification is the face of capitalism eating itself; having run out of new ideas, it’s simply fallen into a cycle of recreation and rehashing. Upscaling, upwhatevering, it’s all about selling the new version of the same od shit at a higher price to the same saturated market. When will enough ever be enough?

Meanwhile, capitalism follows the former tropes of the avant-garde, destroying to rebuild, and Migration is the soundtrack to that.

There are lots of drones, lots of dolorous tones, lots of scraping, sinewy mid-range and gravel-grabbing, churning lower spectrum sounds, as well a haunting piano and infinite empty space. The titles paint the picture in themselves, and it’s dark, smoggy, sulphurous. ‘Total Waste Management’; ‘Polytethylene Terephthalate’; ‘Oil Terminal Tank Farm’ are all evocative of stark industrial scenes.

‘Industrial Estate Bird’s-Eye’ is a haunting wail, presumably of a theremin – over a low, throbbing drone that’s reminiscent of Suicide, and elsewhere, the duo conjure thick, billowing clouds of doom that sound like Sunn O))) behind a power station, as dense rumbles ripple forth. The twelve-and-a-half-minute finale, ‘Throbbing Magnetics’ fulfils the promise of its title, a bucking beast of claustrophobic, crushing gloom, and you feel yourself dragged into the sludge of that relentless, interminable cycle of collapse and construct.

It’s an accomplished work, but a depressing one, and listening places to the fore the abject nature of late capitalism, and the fact that any attempt to save the planet is futile in the face of the onslaught of bulldozers. Redevelopment has nothing to do with environment, only profit, and hard as you might rebel, as strongly as you may protest, you’re powerless against the big money. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s the sad truth. Houses of Worship recognise this. They may hope for better, but Migration is not a protest record, but the sound of grim acceptance.

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It is no wonder that the experimental string duo Lueenas often work with film music. In their recent collaboration with animator and video artist Jonas Bentzen, their affinity for the magic that can happen moving image and moving music is highly apparent. From the p.o.v of a solo traveler, the camera takes us hauntingly through underground tunnels and fantastical sci-fy spaces of ancient aesthetics while the violent track ‘Nyx’ is carrying us through it all. For Lueenas darkness and beauty are two beautifully intertwined sensations and this duality is a driving force in their video collaboration with Jonas Bentzen, creating an eerie yet alluring and sensual journey.

For fans of Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Mica Levi’s soundtrack to Under The Skin, this music video from Lueenas and Jonas Bentzen is one to watch. “Nyx” conjures the story of Hemera’s mother, the Goddess of Night, born from Chaos and feared by all, even Zeus. Through distorted and shrieking layers of violin, and the mammoth double bass figures, she carries at once a brutal wrath and conciliatory power. Transforming into

upward blazing howls, we are reminded that there is beauty in darkness. Nyx is part of the self-titled album by Lueenas, released November 4th, 2022.  Cinematic, strings & electronics duo, LUEENAS, announce self-titled debut album, out Nov. 4. Intuition and acceptance are at the core of the debut album from Danish electrified string duo, Lueenas. Exploring the complex spaces between typical emotional dichotomies, their language emerges brimming with imaginative uses of form and texture. Born over a year of improvised sessions, and informed by their involvement in other projects across pop, jazz, electronic, experimental and post-classical music, Maria Jagd and Ida Duelund then set out to puzzle together the luring soundscapes that make up their self-titled debut. Experimenting with the limits imposed by their stringed instruments, and pushing the boundaries between acoustic, amplified and electronic sources allowed them to draw on a much broader and expressive colour palette of sounds.

Taking inspiration from ancient sacred practices, the album encompasses millennia of storytelling from distinctly female perspectives. Lueenas’ fully-cast debut album is at once the evocative score for a lauded expressionist film yet to be made, and a sermon for the fluidity of the emotional experience across time and space. As an ode to the communicative power of strings, it tells us what would otherwise remain untold. Lueenas is an experimental string duo formed in 2019 by Ida Duelund and Maria Jagd, and based in Copenhagen, DK. With violin, double bass, effects and amplifiers, they create violent and beautiful soundscapes full of panoramic grandeur. Their cinematic aesthetic has roots in both classical minimalism and improvisational rock music.

Watch the video here (click image to play):

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23rd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps it’s that media has a numbing effect, or perhaps it’s simply that however strong the quality of the reportage, it can never truly convey the details in a way that are relatable. I’ve spent the best part of the last year seeing footage or the War in Ukraine and seeing and reasoning about the humanitarian crisis, and, like most people, it’s been quite overwhelming. And yet, ultimately, it’s just more TV, more news media online, on the radio.

I receive missives from around the globe, most containing new music for my ears, and this week, the arrival of Nefas EP by Sora, an offshoot of Kadaitcha piqued my interest with the offer of instrumental southern Ukrainian jazzcore.

Sure, I’m up for a challenge, and hell it’s definitely that. But if the music is a challenge – and if you look up ‘challenge’ in the dictionary, you’ll find it starts playing this EP – the backdrop to its release is even harder to process, with the context of its having been recorded and released shortly before its makers fled Ukraine and decamped to Estonia for their survival, leaving their musical equipment behind and a new Kadaitcha album in the can and in suspense.

Like many, I simply take my home and possessions for granted, writing in my review of the last Kadaitcha release – a lathe-cut 7” ‘with a true physical format, apart from fire or flooding, you have something pretty robust’. It feels pretty crass in the face of everything, in hindsight.

But… but… these guys have continued to make music right up to that moment of departure. It’s not heroic, but a real indicator of just how essential art is, even in the most desperate of time. And more than anything, it shows how strong the need for normality is in the most extreme of situations. The world is seemingly ending, what do you do? Keep going, do as much as you can of what you were doing before. Because it’s a way to cope. Channel that anxiety creatively, and who knows?

Well, we know now. Sora is something special.

The five tracks drag the listener on a wild journey, with the first piece, ‘kings’ but a prelude to the frenetic manic sonic explosion of ‘limit’, a frenzy of crashing drums, jagged guitars, freewheeling bass grooves and crazy brass that brings a whirlwind of discord and by the end, it’s all whipped into a head-spinning cyclone of chaos. It’s a maelstrom of madness, there’s just so much going on all at once, and so much noise and dissonance.

‘Schizoid’ brings some truly nefarious low-end to the party, and it’s hurled against some crashing drums, and in combination conjures a tempestuous storm of sound that rages and pummels, before ‘No’ lumbers heavily onto a hooting, tooting onslaught of mayhem.

There’s a serious risk of a headache with this one, but it’s a headache that need poking: Sora is brain-bending, dizzying, and at times intense and harsh. But that’s why we like it.

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