Terror, anguish and surreal treatments of voice. A few that may have slipped under the radar the last few months…
Gavin Russom – The Telstar File (LIES)
There’s a promising strain of jack heavy house gathering apace at the moment, its momentum intensified convincingly (and resoundingly) by the releases of Traxx’s Nation imprint. The nature of the beastly pummel they conjure seems to have its roots in the traces of horror found in Belgian New Beat, the twisted splenetic splurge of anxiety-attack acid, and the more ominous skulk found in certain more isolated moments in Chicago house. It’s not necessarily novel but the way it’s being taken up, by the likes of Charles Manier, Beau Wanzer and now Gavin Russom shows a promising development, an opening up of the dancefloor as an arena for infectious terror. With this preview from LIES latest release, there’s a wilful high-speed brutality to it. A spiky scud rife with lacerating percussion and fevered thwack. Listening to it on its own might not accentuate its effectiveness completely but utilised adeptly in a mix, you can imagine the devastation.
Nadia Khan – Open Interior (Where To Now)
Little is known about Nadia Khan. ‘Open Interior’ – on the increasingly vital Where To Now cassette imprint - precedes a sole track on a comp 'Video Game Music', an outlet for real and imagined video game soundtracks.
The compulsion to know more stems from the promising impression this exudes, of something fully formed and developed rather than the tentative steps of a producer two releases in. The synths here have that airy, suspended feel native to a serene virtual world. Shot through with something idyllic but also the melancholy of realising virtual entrapment, they woozily descend on ‘Slight Drift’ as if scoring the suddenly gained sentience of a video game character realising their unreality and insignificance.
On the whole though, this doesn’t feel limited to that kind of conceptual framework. There’s a more general dejection here rooted in a nebulous and complex unease. The apparent intent was to ‘explore feelings of loneliness and anxiety…a sense of disconnection to the outside world.’ This is something delicately communicated throughout. It’s as if there’s a permanent chill hanging over everything, and when Khan extends and expands the fog and the sorrow, as on ‘Selective Thoughts’, the atmosphere becomes even more quietly potent, as percussion emerges out of the mist; an unadorned, anchoring thud with a texture like the abrupt sealing of a car boot.
Dasha Rush – Abandoned Beauties and Beasts (From ‘Sleepstep’) (Raster Noton)
Originating from Russia and at the helm of Fullpanda Records, ‘Sleepstep’ – the LP from which this is taken – marks Rush’s first for Raster Noton. It’s in keeping with recent releases which’ve sunk into similarly shadowy regions of experimentally minded techno, namely Kangding Ray’s ‘Solens Arc’ and the more maximal chaos of ‘Is Is’ by Kyoka. But instead of battering home persistently tempestuous, noise-flecked kicks and pounds, Rush prefers a creeping surrealism billowing with fumes and whispers.
At times the spoken word interludes that pepper the more longform stretches of the LP feel forced, a tad fanciful, with an over rehearsed, fatally solemn tone that becomes slightly grating (Avoid ‘Life Time Poem’) which is unfortunate. Rush has enough of a voice without these arch poetics, as proven by ‘Abandoned Beauties and Beasts’, which exhales unsettling blusters of distant breaths and sustained drones, both of which sound as if they’re contained within some stagnant cave. The percussive skid that loops in the foreground makes it even more of an interesting proposition; a slowed and chopped fragment of jungle that proves repeatedly adrenalizing and hypnotizing.
Steve Moore – Other Voices (Ghost Box)
Finding Steve Moore on Ghost Box’s recently inaugurated Other Voices 45 series might be a surprise for other less exploratory artists but not as such in this case. Splitting releases between LIES and Spectrum Spools, Moore has often treaded into outer trajectories not too dissimiliar from kosmische whilst also edging into dramatic, beat-led build and release suited to more discerning, patient dancefloors. At times there’s been a touch of retro-plundering inhibiting his productions with a sound predominated by analogue synths which show their date of origin a little too keenly. But as with 2013’s ‘Pangaea Ultima’ this feels drawn out of vintage technology but not overly dominated by them.
The mood’s one of rapt apprehension, a slow unfurling of gleaming synths and brooding low-end conveying something vaguely sci-fi, yet not the kind which abounds in clear cut theatrics. Tarkovsky rather than Spielberg. Something to hold in esteemed company, with the likes of Pye Corner Audio and Legowelt’s Unit Black Flight material.
Felicia Atkinson – L’Oeil (From ‘A Readymade Ceremony’) (Shelter Press)
Like Dasha Rush a similarly bewitching magnetism pervades this focal point from the latest EP of mixed media artist Felicia Atkinson. But this time the vocal emittances (if you can call them that, vigorously fragmented as they are) feel like they hold a lot more conviction and authenticity in their execution. According to the accompanying blurb, Atkinson sourced the text that runs throughout the EP from a disparate group of materials – George Bataille’s ‘Madame Edwarda’, an Italian Contemporary Art Magazine and other texts which were lying around. Disregarding strategy in this respect and leaving her vocal samples to chance has had a great effect, especially in this instance. They’re voiced with a gasping whisper as if she’s fearing their dissipation and her subsequent inability to voice them. With bouts of noise muddling them into disarray, it starts to resemble the effect of a dream disintegrating into shards of half-perceived impressions. Noirish uncertainty in the chiming glow of synth which now and again arises also colours it with a more accessible sense of mood.
Although the precedent of the Burroughs/Gysin cut-up method might hang heavy on this kind of endeavour there’s enough departure here to make it worthwhile; an eddying chorus of thoughts and voices that in some way sounds out the jumbled, everyday rush of information that crosses mouth and mind.