Posts Tagged ‘Primitive’

Christopher Nosnibor

Eric Copeland, operating outside of his main musical outlet of Black Dice, continues his understates solo career with the discreet release of Dumb it Down. It’s almost as if he’s on a campaign of anti-promotion, and would prefer his work to spread by word of mouth and osmosis. There’s a perverse logic in that, which corresponds with his unusual career trajectory: bursting onto the scene as an act with decidedly hardcore leanings, Black Dice released a slew of singles and Eps between 1998 and 2000 that charted their evolution towards abrasive experimental noise, before an unexpected swerve saw their debut album in 2002 present expansive pieces of an infinitely more chilled-out nature.

Having subsequently influenced – and crossed over with – Animal Collective who, they put in contact with the Fat Cat Records label back in 2003, Black Dice may have been somewhat eclipsed and Copeland’s solo work existing some way below the radar.

Dumb it Down isn’t exactly a hugely commercial proposition, to be fair: the title track is the first on the album and while it got a sort of bouncy feel to it, with hints of early Wire, Suicide, Stooges, and Cabaret Voltaire tossed together and blended with a psychedelic twist, most of it’s buried in so much murk: it’s fuzzy, bassy, and sounds like a demo recorded on a condenser mic. But then, it’s cool, because it also sounds like a lot of the stuff on the Pebbles compilation series. So yes, it sounds more like a lost gem than a contemporary work, and this is true of the album as a whole.

Across the album’s ten tracks, all of which are so swampy that they sound as if they’ve been recoded from underwater, or from the next room. There are some viable sabs of electro-funk, with hints of Taking Heads and dashes of 80s robotix all churned in together, but it seems to have been recorded and mixed to deliberately undermine any commercial potential. In the past, commenting on the likes of The fall, Pavement, and Silver Jews among others, I’ve suggested that lo-fi production or not, you can’t keep a good song down, but Copeland has seemingly gone out of his way to absolutely fucking bury an entire album’s worth f good song – give or take.

There are strains of Silver Apples’ analogue tripouts which emerge from the dark depths, ‘Motorcycles’ sounds like Suicide playing ‘Louie Louie’ in a basement bar three blocks away. And far from dumbing things down as the title suggests, this album presents a real challenge to the listener, namely ‘do you have the patience?’ Well, do you? Such patience is rewarded, however much frustration the audio levels may cause, because the no-fi primitivism is, ultimately, integral to the experience of the album.

The MP3 age has made us snobbish about fidelity – and the trend for 180gm vinyl pressings likewise. And some may say that there’s no excuse for rough, sloppy recordings anymore, but anyone who recalls or has a taste for lo-fi, be it 60s psych, late 70s / early 80s bedroom 4-tracking will vouch for the way in which this kind of stuff can touch the listener in ways which resonate beyond the articulable. Ultimately, Dumb It Down is lowkey, lo-fi and low-impact, and I like it.

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CD/DL Fourth Dimension Records/Foolproof Projects FDCD107/PRJ049

7th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurbage: Void Axis is Brighton duo Map 71’s fourth album. The previous one, Gloriosa, released on Fourth Dimension as both a limited edition cassette and, later, a CD featuring bonus material, saw them garnering more praise and attention than before. During the interim they have continued to play live regularly and have a few more shows planned around the UK in September and October, including an appearance at the Fourth Dimension Records’ label night at Cafe OTO on 19/10/2018, where they share the bill with Alternative TV, Richard Youngs and EXTNDDNTWRK (Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods’ solo endeavour). A 2×7” compilation will appear to coincide with this likewise featuring a track by them. Lisa Jayne (words and voice) and Andy Pyne (drums and electronics) are based in Brighton and became Map 71 in 2013.

The critique: This is glorious. It’s not accessible, easy, light. In fact, it’s anything but either. Atonal vocals and clattering motoric percussion dominate. We’ve moved a long way from The Fall and Kraftwerk, but at the same time, MAP 71 call to mind the sparse simplicity of Young Marble Giants, but synthier and dronier.

Blank, monotone narratives about nothing in particular drift out over repetitive synth oscillations and cyclical synthesised rhythms. For ever.

‘Nuclear Landscapes’ presents a thunderous, murky, barrelling noise by way of a backdrop. The rhythms are messed-up, sound bouncing against sound to build a dark mess of noise like tennis balls in a tumble dryer. Elsewhere, ‘The Future Edge’ goes murky and dips into Suicide territory with its dark, dank, throb which provides the sonic backdrop to Lisa’s expressionless spoken-word narrative.

‘Armour and Ecdysis’ goes spacious and eerie, with fear chords and heavy echo and infinite delay creating an unsettling atmosphere, while ’21:12’ goes dark and robotic in in its plundering of early 80s post-punk electronic works for inspiration. And it works Void Axis is tense and dark, and clinical and difficult in a stark analogue way.

Void Axis isn’t an album to engage with on an emotional level: there’s no engagement or resonance here.

Sonically, I’m reminded in some ways of Dr Mix and the Remix’s Wall Of Sound – the album released by Eric Debris post-Metal Urbain through Rough Trade in 1979 and which provide a blueprint for both The Jesus and Mary Chain and Big Black. Being one of my all-time favourite albums, this is a good thing: Void Axis is spectacularly primitive and claustrophobic and insular. And in its revisiting the technologies and production values of almost 40 years ago, Void Axis is also imbued with a certain sense of authenticity, despite its being spectacularly out of step with, well, pretty much any zeitgeist. Let’s face it, no-one else sounded like Dr Mix back then, and nor has anyone before or since, and the same is true of the drum-machine thump-led treble overload of Big Black.

But ultimately, what sells Void Axis is that is doesn’t sound like any other album. MAP 71 have found their niche.

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MAP 71 – Void Axis