Outta-nowhere DIY blinder from YOUTH; the sprawling debut album by Manchester-based painter, artist, DJ/producer Richard Harris aka Sockethead, recorded in a caravan on the Scottish West Coast and sweeping from fractal jungle to outsider folk and bruised, squashed soul music, think something like John Bender via Actress and into a Jandek/Robert Wyatt jam, highly recommended if u were feeling similarly singular Northwest tangents from FUMU, Turinn, G.H.
Aside from knocking out scuzzy wee bombs like this album, Sockethead is a member of Manchester’s Return to Zero production/DJ crew with Turinn and FUMU, and also lectures in art at the city’s institutions. This should give both casual and keener observers of the city’s mutant, sounds strong context for the colourfully visual styles on ‘Harj-o-Marj’, which factors in heavy influences ranging from Detroit techno to post-punk, freak beats and screwed rap, to create a rudely shapeshifting amalgamate disciplined with the hands-on craft and tormented soul of John Bender or Jeff Keen, and fraught with the nostalgia and lurking madness of life spent in isolation.
While Richard’s isolation was self-imposed as part of an artist residency in 2018 on the ruggedly beautiful West Coast of Scotland, its sentiment resonates with mindsets imposed by our current lockdown. By turns the 14 tracks move from a “pissed and lonely” Graham Lambkin-like collage of synths and cranky vocals in ‘Genesis Redux’ to psyche-celtic geometric synth visions in ’When I Close My Eyes I See Paint’, via the fractal junglist brainjig of ‘Chaos Portait’, to bittersweet synth-funk meditations on ‘Love Loss Missing Yearning’ and ‘Devotion’, and exceptional segue into screwed psychoactive crud on ‘Jahiliyyah’, plus thee crankiest cyberfolk song you’ll hear in 2020 on ‘Hyena Clan’.
It’s naught but essential listening for fans of Manchester’s best, embodying the misery and psychic bruising of isolation, but naturally blessed with an artist’s creative resilience and knack for transmuting heavy feels into rough gold.