Boomkat Product Review:
Put together after a 2018 visit to Chernobyl, NYC artist and curator James Hoff's third full-length is a discomposing alloy of muted, brassy orchestral gloom and cybernetic DSP generated from GPS signals. RIYL Gavin Bryars, Rashad Becker, Rene Hell.
The quiet sense of melancholy that surrounds "Inverted Birds and Other Sirens" made sense to Hoff when he was composing the album in 2018. At the time, he was moved by Chernobyl's history and folklore, driven by the horror of the notorious 1986 nuclear meltdown and fascinated by its slippage into the popular imagination. When he reached Pripyat, his fantasies of the exclusion zone shifted to an emotional observation of material reality, and he was moved to respond with music that was less conceptual and more human - more spiritual. The first side 'Inverted Birds' was released in 2019 as the soundtrack to an audio-visual work ('HOBO UFO (v. Chernobyl)') that paired the music with graphics taken from a hacked version of Google Street View. In 2022 the emotional resonance has only deepened and the relevance and melancholy of the region has only been amplified.
On the opening side, blurry orchestral elements are punctuated by digital blasts, sub womps and microscopic glitches. It's like hearing a malfunctioning computer blurting out machine code as Gavin Bryars' heartbreaking "The Sinking of the Titanic" plays faintly into the abyss. The second side, 'Other Sirens', picks up where the first left off, minimizing the digital interference and maximizing the lugubrious emotional desolation. Hoff's wish was that the music would feel like "melodies walking through a melting landscape," and he transmits his message well - it's not easy listening, but it's a moving experience. Recommended.