Downwards descend on Mute’s legendary producer/engineer Paul Kendall, serving as the label’s in-house producer thru the 1980s and '90s, working with Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb and Wire - for a new album of surgically precise and invasively curious post-industrial thrills and murky intrigue that comes highly recommended if yr into anything from Mika Vainio to Masami Akita, Recoil to Bruce Gilbert.
Kendall’s oeuvre has paralleled the alternative history of post-punk and industrial music for over 40 years; after crossing paths with Karl O’Connor (aka Regis) in 2018, Kendall now takes his solo bow, proper, on Downwards with the fiercely uncompromising and absorbing results of experiments executed during the pits of lockdown in 2020. They arguably resemble a form of disembodied industrial techno searching for a fleshly new host to inhabit, all amorphous and bristling malforms untethered from percussion and sent to rabidly gnaw the senses via various strategies of blizzarding attack, textural attrition, and structural abstraction which can be heard as a side effect of Paul’s ongoing hearing loss from too many loud studio sessions.
It’s not hard to clock why Regis was smitten with the material as the pair clearly share a lust for gristly scuzz and tempered, concentrated emotion. However Kendall’s music is more obtuse and comes from a warped perspective inspired by his fascinations with macro photography (magnifying minutiae), with his famously keen ear for detail leading the album into stranger spaces between the wires and noises. Effectively hashing the limen of perception, he invokes a spectra of ghostly, hallucinatory tones by combining recordings of his voice and a Leaf Audio "Microphonic Soundbox", an experimental wooden instrument with metal springs, rods, sand paper and a kalimba, and then funnels them through processors and FX.
The result is a sequence of layered, alien-sounding tracks that push thru industrial and harsh noise zones, yet sound as sonically focused as the heaviest techno - between the fetid clank of ‘Restless’ and drone rock torpor of ‘Are You In?’, drawing us into the gooch clammy integers of ‘InHarmonic’ and animated maelstrom of ‘Nowhere. Twisty,’ to recall the surreal insights of CoH Plays Cosey on the roiling sensuality of ‘Missing The Fence,’ and serve serious head swill material in ‘ReBurst.’