Posts Tagged ‘Sci-Fi’

Cruel Nature Records – 11th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

We’re in eerie electronics territory here. Haunting, creepy. Suspenseful. There’s something of a vintage sci-fi feel to this nightmarish trip, as gurgles and scrapes bibble up through swamps of whistling organ-like drones. It’s a dark record, but not because it relies on heavy drones, low, rumbling, doomy bass, hard volume or distortion: Folklore Of Despair worms its way into the psyche, prodding and poking stealthily into the recesses of the subconscious, gently rubbing and scratching at those small, nagging uncertainties that stem from the fear of the unknown. Whistles and bleeps intermingle with tense violin-type drones and quibbling analogue sounds, spooky, spectral notes and crashing crunches which disrupt the flow and create a different kind of tension, one that feels like things are going out of control and colliding on every side, a catastrophic nightmare where carks skid into one another as every third driver find their steering no longer works or their brakes have been cut. It’s disorientating, and the effect is so strong because everything about the album is so unpredictable.

There are no conventional structures here, or even any clear structures at all. Like the best suspense movies, the unexpected always occurs unexpectedly. The tense build-ups are often false markers, but then again, there’s not much letup in the tension, which they sustain and sustain, and your nerves are jangling because your gut tells you ‘something isn’t right’.

Things get really weird really fast: second track ‘Darkness is Driving the Machine of Debauchery’ is quite headfuck, as glitches and warping sounding like a stretched and buckled tape struggling to traverse over the heads. It squeaks and squeals and sounds as if whatever was recorded on the tape before is bleeding through, like voices from the other side – I’m reminded tangentially of the 7” containing sample recordings of voices from the ether that accompany Konstantin Raudive’s 1971 book, Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment in Electronic Communication with the Dead (something that would feed into the theories expounded by William Burroughs on the tape experiments he conducted withy Brion Gysin).

An actual voice, murky, muffled, drifts, disembodied and strange through the creeping chords on ‘If the Forest Ate the Trees’, where the notes drift like fog, but there’s more to its being unsettling than that: there’s an otherness, a strangeness you can’t quite put your finger on, as if maybe the drifting fog in the graveyard scene has been filmed in reverse. It’s the fact it’s difficult to pinpoint that heightens the effect so.

Thunderous beats – distant, as if playing in a club three blocks away – pulse, deep, and bassy, on ‘Floral Patterned Gearshift’, and the sound is all but drowned out by the shrill, clamorous shrieking synapse-shattering tweets that flurry like a swarm of bats scurrying and flurrying. You have to fight the impulse to duck to avoid the aural assailants, invisible yet somehow tangible in the mind’s eye.

At times, everything simply collapses into chaotic cacophony. It’s hard to process, and ever harder to digest. Folklore Of Despair is a complex and uncomfortable album, which is nothing the title hints it may be. I’m not even entirely certain what it is, but it leaves you feeling jittery, jumpy and on edge.

AA

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Distortion Records DIST15 – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb: ‘Beatmatching Metalogue’s cinematic industrial with the dark sci-fi visions of d&b/neurofunk, Decentralized Coercion deals in the threats of mass surveillance, decentralized social control, totalitarian manipulations of trust, runaway artificial intelligence and the addictive mechanisms of the attention economy. The resulting sound is that of Big Data multiplying exponentially, sucking us down in digital whirlpool.’

As well known for their remixing as their own output, and having been featured on a fair few compilations, Metalogue – the vehicle for electronic musician, programmer, and sound designer Robin Fencott – has amassed quite a substantial catalogue in a short time, with an approach to performing that lends itself well to live recordings, of which they’ve released several EPs.

However, the studio work is perhaps the medium through which the details are most discernible, with skittering synths and hectic cymbal stutters providing layers to the stark soundscapes shaped by thumping techno beats. The album’s first track, ‘New Era of Trust’ begins with sonorous atmospherics and a slow, jittery beat, before a woozy bass rolls in. It evokes Bladerunner-esqe images, conjures monochrome city scenes, dark alleys and rusted fire escapes, and 80s sci-fi. It has a certain Nine Inch Nails vibe, but the sounds are crisper, cleaner, and therefore somehow more inhuman and more detached.

Stepping up the tempo and the attack, ‘Spectral Froth Annealment’ clatters and clanks and pounds hard while whirring electronics fizz and grate to forge a bleak, paranoid space, and bleeds into the nine-minute ‘Shadow Text’, which maintains the pace. It’s not the subtle shifts in emphasis that are where these pieces appeal: it’s their relentlessness, their consistency, their clinical sharpness. The treble on the snare sound, the metallic edges, all imbue the album with a coldness that somehow reflects the zeitgeist: we’re surrounded my machines, we’re assaulted by information 24/7, and despite mankind’s unwavering belief in its superiority and capacity to control its environment, it feels increasingly s if that control is being relinquished and handed over to automation. I’m not talking about the way the industrial revolution brought us mechanisation, but that more insidious encroachment whereby Alexa is listening in and Facebook throws adverts having decided what you want to buy based on a conversation or status update from the other day, and your FitBit tells you how far you’ve walked and how many more steps you need to walk in order to burn off the packet of crisps you had mid-morning. We think we own our lives, but that sense of control is illusory. Your employer knows how long you’ve been away from your desk for the toilet, and with cameras every 30 yards (I personally pass no fewer than 13 CCTV cameras on my 23-minute walk to the bus stop on the way to work each morning, and the busses are installed with cameras as well), there is nowhere that’s private, and there is no hiding from the machines. You’re bot paranoid: you really are having your every movement watched or tracked.

Decentralized Coercion is a soundtrack to this harrowing but inescapable fact.

‘Extraction Imperative’ is bleaker, more stripped-back still, the stuttering drum ‘n’ bass rhythms twitchy and tense, and there’s little levity in the trajectory towards the album’s close, ending with the pumping yet magnificently empty ‘Behavioural Surplus’. The beats are whiplash-fast and hard as, but everything else is backed off, distant, creating a distinctly disquieting sensation.

By the finish, I’m left drained, punished, pounded, and pulverized. It’s a microcosm of life. Decentralized Coercion boils it down to a succinct sonic statement that encapsulates that life. It’s harsh, but it’s real.

AA

Metalogue