It would have been dishonest to pick anything else for our choice for record of the year 2017 - ‘Grafts' has more or less been on constant rotation here since the very start of the year and has dug its claws deep into our psyche in the months since. A blissfully introspective 22 minute piece for keys, samplers and EQs in three parts; it’s instantly easy on the ear - rarely a mark of longevity - but it continues to resonate and transfix regardless of how intimately you become acquainted with its uncanny, cunning manoeuvres.
Uncompromisingly distinct while redolent of modal minimalism, 70s, new age, and folk music, it effectively blurs distinctions between traditional composition and more open, overlapping genres that hover in the half-light between acoustic and electronic refinement.
Rather than anything grandiose or explicitly seductive, the effect of Grafts is best compared with the subtle intoxication of micro-dosing on LSD or the clarity afforded by quiet meditation, in a sense dilating the listener’s focus to a heightened awareness of the piece’s intricate peripheral tones as much as its melodic centre ground, with a beautifully understated, surreal resolution. The piece flickers with gentle optimism, never at random, illuminating unseen spaces that quickly gradient into nothingness.
In both concept and execution, Grafts resonates with Kara-Lis Coverdale’s established roots as an improvisational virtuoso and accomplished pianist as much as her academically informed approach to electroacoustic composition that showcases a distinct omnivorous appetite for the digital.
It’s a record that seems to unravel in perpetuity; exposing new layers with every repeated listen. It never fully commits to a resolution either, lingering like a slowly dispersing plume of smoke as you reach its end and head straight back to the beginning - something we've done countless times.
If you're yet to sink into this incredible piece of music - we genuinely envy what's in store for you. If you're familiar with it already, you'll know exactly what we're talking about.
Shawn O’Sullivan puts his weight behind a filthy set of industrial techno clangers for Shifted’s Avian label.
Bare bones, atonal and bluntly driven, Fiut For Purpose is signature 400PPM gear, and pitted with some particularly dank lowlights in the grimacing yank of Metabolic Grift, on the distended rolige of Sintered Bauxite, and a pair of stukka bomber drone payloads; Into The Heap and the Powell-meets-Haskell style swivel of Fit For Purpose.
Marking 20 years of Prurient and Hospital Productions’ concurrent paths, the epic 3 hr 20 minutes of Rainbow Mirror inarguably ranks among Prurient’s most compelling statements. While still the blood child of Dominick Fernow, the album’s massive scope demanded more hands on board, with Jim Mroz (Lussuria) and Matt Folden (Dual Action) lending their expertise before post-production by Shifted and mastering by Paul Corley cemented this towering work of Doom Electronics for the ages.
Offered up as ‘a portrait in perpetual tension’, and housed in cover art created as the first collage in the pre-recording era of Prurient, Rainbow Mirror draws on the project’s roots in order to locate itself in the modern day. What it finds in the process is that little has changed since Prurient and Hospital Productions’ conception in ’97 - the world is still a torrid, evil mess beyond control, and one that needs notions like Prurient to try and define its heaving mass more than ever.
Like Frozen Niagara Falls before it, echoes of the old world riddle the long, stark corridors of Rainbow Mirror, too. But here those echoes are more fragmented, distant and entropically obfuscated, emulating the effect of trying to find your own image in a hall of mirrors, or locating yourself drowning amid the clamour of more than 3 billion other people online, all saying the same, mundane shit at the same time.
With a length and intensity proportionately reflective of the world’s increasing socio-political tension and rate of homogeneity, Rainbow Mirror holds firm as a space to immolate the senses in preparation for the ever nearing eschaton.
Josh Eustis and Turk Dietrich reconvene for a second album-length exercise in dynamic repetition as Second Woman.
Expanding on the immersive dub techno/electronica cross pollinations of their self-titled debut, Second Woman draw the listener even deeper into the realm of twisted digital production on ‘S/W’. If Jlin’s killer Second Woman refix on their recent Spools EP hipped you to their shared interest in footwork, then this second LP explores it more explicitly through their own creative lens. Throughout the album, Dietrich and Eustis excel in their ability to conjure sharply-defined rhythmic patterns that levitate craftily like a mythical Wing-Chun master.
This knottiness is apparent from the off, teasing out intricate synthesis in stereo formation to a billowing backdrop of spacious dub techno textures on opener / like a loose-fingered Vegas card dealer. // offers a more unpredictable approach, skittering chords dragged by the tails through a forlorn digital miasma. Both /// and //// offer a glimpse at footwork through Second Woman’s eyes, the latter a real highlight of the LP thanks to those abstracted, metallic percussive licks.
////\ sees them forgo the riddims in favour of a brief exercise in brain-matter scooping ambience, before swerving into another LP standout in the shape of ////\\, a clicky electro-dub reduction that will hook Autechre advocates and fans of the Cabaret label alike.
RIYL Mark Fell, Snd, Gabor Lazar, Jlin, NHK'Koyxen.
Beatrice Dillon meets Kassem Mosse for two higher register adventures on The Trilogy Tapes following their joint tape for Ominira in 2016 and a live collaboration at Tate Liverpool.
In a very smart move designed to simultaneously demonstrate their taste for extreme, puristic sonics and sidestep any preconceptions you may have justifiably built up from their respective catalogues, they’ve completely jettisoned the beat here in favour of two tightrope-walking pieces following glistening, highly strung partials over cavernous, swelling beds of subbass oscillator roil.
The effect is far closer to Kevin Drumm on a mad one or with a vertiginousness that will likely induce panic attacks in anyone who doesn’t like air travel or heights, ‘cause when they really get going it feels like the world has just been pulled from under your feet and, well, you’re fucking flying pal.
This is one of those TTT 12”s that’s sure to slice neeks down the middle. For our 2p, it needs to be heard on the loudest system you can lay your paws on.
Getting in there just as his new album proper drops, Ben Frost presents his tense soundtrack to Super Dark Times, a new flick directed by Kevin Phillips and hailed as “an unnerving cross between ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Donnie Darko’” by IndieWire.
Like his work on Fortitude, and his acclaimed A U R O R A album, the Australian composer diffuses scarily close strings thru diaphanous soundscapes to mirror both the film’s imagery and his own internal landscapes.
More specifically, Frost picked a palette of sounds appropriate to the film’s setting in ‘90s upstate New York, generating a temporally sensitive tension that drew on his formative experiences with digital delays, Boss Metal Zone distortion pedals and Peavey Amps that was also pretty ubiquitous to that era.
The results sound like the downstrokes of NIN, threaded with thwarted techno impulses and rent with a gripping sense of digital awe.