Boomkat Product Review:
Croydon born Jamaican Tony F. Wilson is a bona fide legend, producing his earliest work as Zurich in duo with Neil Halstead of Slowdive fame, he then worked with the likes of Thurston Moore, Seefeel and Robert Hampson during his tenure as Echo Park with Jon Tye, and has more recently contributed vocals to some of the most screwed ragga and post-industrial gristle we’ve heard in years as part of Human Inferno. 'Fortress Audio' is a "horror soundtrack to the real-life nightmare of social deprivation," set in the Croydon estate where he grew up, a properly blitzed, blurry and dubbed-out session of industrial-noise tipped if yr into Aaron Dilloway, Throbbing Gristle, Maurizio Bianchi, Dreamcrusher.
Keen-eared heads will no doubt have come across Wilson at this point. The veteran writer and noisemaker has been part of too many projects to list, but he cut his teeth operating on the fringes of the shoegaze scene back in the '90s, deviating into more industrial sounds as time slipped forward. On his last full-length 'False Dread', his first as Spykidelic, he touched on his former life growing up in New Addington, a Croydon town colloquially known as "little Siberia". 'Fortress Audio' expands the narrative considerably, using his experiences of violence and unchecked drug use to inspire a terrifying, noise-damaged soundtrack to the malaise of Greater London's urban sprawl. Wilson is quick to assure us that it's not all doom and gloom; in amongst the thickets of searing electronics and damaged tape loops, there are smudged references to the reggae tapes he'd buy from Croydon's indoor market, and ghostly vapors that whisper from the haunted woodlands that surround the town.
Dysregulated, dissociated vocals lead us into 'Prime Meridian', that drapes garbled drum loops with the rediscovered traces of Croydon's disenfranchised minds. Wilson's sound palette is broadly industrial, but the thudding, bass-heavy rhythmic backbone speaks directly to his experience as a British-Jamaican, all spiraling echoes and aborted, psychedelic futurism. 'Featherbed Lane' is paralyzed with doom, pocked with metallic scrapes and growling engine whirrs - a reference to the deafening fighter jets that zoomed overhead during the yearly Biggin Hill airshow. And 'Warlingham Park Hospital' is as terrifying as 'Silent Hill'; eerie footsteps reverberate into loose cable noise and muck-glazed sewer drones.
Wilson reintroduces a sandblasted beat on 'Centronic Limited', letting spectral drones surround it in uncomfortable paranoia, and on 'Falconwood Course' the rhythm is expanded into dense, blown-out cacophony, sounding like Vladislav Delay reworking a Wolf Eyes side. Wilson makes music that's locked into British social and architectural history, and tells a story that's often ignored by the experimental mainstream. His glimpse into the past is bewilderingly relevant, and although his narrative is autobiographical, it's the grim, grimy reality of many souls still trapped in Greater London's concrete labyrinth.
Wilson frames 'Fortress Addo' as a soundtrack, and it's as stark and realistic as any gritty British social drama; where the artist pulls away is with his use of tranquillizing surrealism. On 'Jewel's Wood' a grinding kick drum sits beneath layers of mud and stone, while listless spirits circle overhead, and on the foreboding 'Timebridge', demented oscillations wind around sizzling snares and stifled voices. If you listen closely, there's the dreamy, bass-heavy fog of A.R. Kane trapped in the darkness, desperate to escape, and you could even listen to 'Fortress Addo' as a grizzled, noise-pilled counterpart to Space Afrika's rain-sodden, cinematic ambience. It's powerful stuff from beginning to end.