Matt Loveridge, a multi-aliased, Bristol-based fringe figure with previous form in Geoff Barrow’s Beak >, Fairhorns, Gnar Hest, Team Brick and a slew of other projects, may not give the impression that he runs with the Young Echo crew – or indeed any pack - given his anomalous and colourful outlandishness. There’s a strange and irreverent scatterbrain grandeur projected by both his Twitter persona and his predilection for titles which sound like a hybrid of wry battle re-enactment cosplay and abbreviated instant message splurge.
Yet, listening to the exaggerated black metal malice, feral noise-exaltations and solemn, courtly drone that makes up this outing for FuckPunk, it's emphatically evident why label heads Seb Gainsborough (aka Vessel) and Dan Davies (aka Ossia) have picked it up.
A stratospheric ride that balances rupture with mesmeric respite, '^_____^' is unlike anything you’re likely to hear this year. The A-side begins with an inferno of writhing static, yet it’s a cacophony made bewitching by a hymnal church organ trance that sounds like La Monte Young’s ‘Dream House’ reimagined for strung-out psych congregations.
Moving into the accursed vocals and depraved distortion of the wonderfully christened, ‘To Bollocks with You, Scum-Sodden Malcontent! I Blistered The Path Myself! My House is Upfill, It’s an Airship and it’s Fucking Wicked M8’, the album alters its path from rumination to onslaught. But with the ending sequence the track reverts back to the abrasive wistfulness of the opening with melodic, vaguely medieval acoustic plucks. That propensity for progression, from the harshest of frequency immolation to a terminal dusk of experimental primitivism is central to Loveridge’s appeal, as is his ability to make those junctures of extremity and delicacy both feel equivalent in impact.
On the mammoth 20-minute conclusion of ‘Magnificent Upfuck for The Most Totally Joyousest Motherfuckinest Sweet Eyes You (hahaha wheee!)’, the noise exhibited before seems to have moved into another dimension altogether; a space where out-of-orbit satellites with loose wires seem to emit flares of current in a vacuum. Again the whole mess shifts, closing with a male choir which sounds like a melancholic gang of mythical fisherman, all repeating various refrains, one of them discernible as "Scorch the earth". A sustaining ebb of organ surrounds their overlapping voices before a less coarse female contingent takes the reins. It’s almost religious in its tone and just as unpredictable in its course as its former accompaniments. '^_____^' is a perplexing, unrestrained 40-minute construction but one that, if stuck with, reveals a bizarrely divine, towering achievement.