Title: Topsyturvydom “Best Off”
Keywords: EBM, Rhythmic Noise, Glitch, Hard Trance, Tech House, Hardcore, Experimental, Hip Hop
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Where hard trance and rhythmic noise intersect, there is… Hypnozyl. And no one else I know of.
I was originally quite surprised when I was sent this album by Hypnozyl for release at Noise-Joy in ’07. He billed his project as Trance/Rhythmic Noise. A curious blend of two genres you wouldn’t at first imagine having anything in common. Rhythmic noise is a category of music that can be very trance-inducing, and trance sounds have for many years now been incorporated by “futurepop”, EBM and pseudo-industrial artists… which, in the last two cases, was something I feel contributed to many artists in the genre leaving for a territory closer to pure noise, to differentiate themselves from the ebm/industrial that, diluted by the alternative mainstream of the ’90s, always came across more like a fusion of trance/techno and/or rock music with angsty lyrics and whatever.
The album, in reality, works nicely for what it’s trying to do, but overall it feels throughout like several very disparate genres that have little to do with one another are trying to have fun together in a sandbox (soundbox?) but, more often than not, deciding amicably to just play alone. There are speedcore tracks, trance tracks, hardcore tracks, rhythmic noise (really more like technoise) tracks, often all happening within the space of one particular track, but only with a few here and there that really do sound as if the genres are melting at all into one another. It ends up with the vibe of some hybridized form of hardcore dance music… chock full of dance-music cliches for the party people, even (a couple tracks begin with some MC bullshit, for example).
Track number one is ‘Push’, and we immediately hear very low, bright synth buzz pads. A sparse kick drum is added, and a click hat. A groove develops suddenly, almost a breakbeat/house type thing, but it disappears, coming back infrequently. There’s an explosion, silence, a voice comes in talking some gibberish about electronics or something, and then we’re treated to a trance arp sequence with a light groove. There’s a section with what feels like kind of a broken groove. But wait, where’s the noise? Oh, it’s coming up soon. A sequence of electric feedback stuff, some vocal samples, rhythms… these will eventually take us back to the trance arpeggiations. Those later on are replaced with a kind of nice bell. Ends with a booming explosion sound!
‘Southpool Experiment’ gets off to a quick start, spaceship sounds lead us straight into a kick pulse with bassline sequences. Very trancy. An explosion happens, and you’d think it’s the end of the track… but you’d be wrong, because a completely different arp sequence, one that will definitely be familiar in it’s sound profile for sounding very trancy comes in… one of those dense saw string arps. Thought I might mention here, since the music goes on like described for a pretty long while (it is trance, after all), there are 20 tracks on this album. On average, I’d estimate total runtime of each individual track at approximately 6 minutes. Lots of music to get through, but since most of it is like extended mixes for a dance-floor, I suppose you’d figure that… oh, hey, the track just ended!
Next we’ve got ‘De La Contura’, with a ripping synthetic noise that reverberates out and uptempo house kick. Then there’s a bassline pulse sequence. A vocal snippet says “It feels so deep / deep inside me”, and then the groove gets a bit harder, thickened up. This is good music to surf the web to, gotta say. You can dance to it too, but much like minimal techno, trance of this kind is something that I imagine someone listening to while dicking around on the internet, maybe playing flash games. Years ago, that is. Now it seems like your casual internet user is probably listening to lolicore or something. “Ok, party people in the house”… haha… uhn-thm-uhn-thm-uhn-thm-uhn-thm…
… ‘Amphoric Resonance’ is the longest piece of music on here, clocking in at 10:55! R2-D2 is taking a piss. The weather outside is ambient. The last time I took valium I kept imagining myself inside a steamy cryo-chamber in an alien movie, something like that would have sounded like this I think. The throb comes in, a bassline and kick that seem to have merged into one rolling sequence. Click of the hi-hat on the off-beat. Later, after the Deutsche vocals, we’re treated to kind of an electro/industrial groove, which, in the context of an album of trance, begins to cause me to question the existence of any lines of demarcation in the world of electronic music. If you were to listen to this and think, “electro/industrial” that’s what you will hear, but you might also think “trance” and it is somehow that as well that you will hear. I’m trying to push my luck by imagining polka, but it doesn’t always work. Creates some amusing mental images, though.
‘Gospel Rhythm’ cuts to the chase right away, throbbing bassline and a house kick, hats. There are some frequency cuts, then what feels a little like forced gospel vocal samples. In a mostly silent space, a strange modulated synth sequence slowly filters in. Very groove focused, subtle change-ups, lots of repetition, may require the use of illegal substances.
Time for ‘Gridlock’… which starts with some Ragga-type vocal samples (Elephant Man???), then some thrashy technoise, high BPMs. This is where the rhythmic noise part of the album first really comes into play. I enjoy the frequency drops where things will go dead for half a second and then come in hard. Lots of peculiar sounds float into the mix from time to time, there’s an odd section with what sounds like some dying machine blurting out drone-tones for awhile, but then it comes back to that technoise type 4/4 grind. It’s almost as bouncy as gabber. As far as the noisy, hardcore tracks go, this is probably my personal fave. Simple, but effective.
‘Barracuda Fights’ keeps that sound coming, but begins with some contrived DJ intro and then hits you with an uptempo distorted kick/rim groove. It reminds me a lot of Converter. It’s got that sort of “stab-you-in-the-chest” punchy feel, just the right impact to make you feel like your head is caving in.
What is the ‘Essential Value’? Well, it starts with some electric noises spinning around in our ears, then after awhile it brings in a reverby kick… all the BPMs on this album are high. Not speedcore high, but most seem to be above 140. Sounds are added, gradually. Eventually everything drops away. We hear all kind of electronic noises, some electro-voices. Then the kick comes back, distorted, and accompanied by an alarm noise. “We dance to the sound of sirens.”
‘Knoxford Interface’ begins with some mechanical noises, some of them highly digitized, like a bitstream. Then, after a bit, there’s a crunchy rhythmic noise groove that comes in. Layer after layer of noise, lots of nice little moments where shit gets fucked up — including the tempo! It eventually devolves into abstraction.
Then it’s ‘Fatal Exorcism – Gaels Evocation’. Psycho-acoustic noises, voices… close to 2 minutes in we begin to hear traces of something else developing, a rapid-speed groove. Then it hits… ok, this might be speedcore! The groove gets treated with all kinds of effects, flanger particularly. The flange seems to be the whole harmonic component, everything else is just noise and that bombastic hi-speed 4/4 groove.
After that is ‘Cold Medina’, which takes off in a completely different direction, with kind of a rap rock feel and a hard overlaid 4/4 distorted bass bump. Very weird!
‘Rebellion’ is next, with a steely, distorted breakbeat. More… hip hop!? Then, suddenly, some really nice distorted gabber-style bass. Later on the tempo drops for a bit nicely, then flies back up again.
Ready or not, it’s ‘Grotesque Dance’, beginning with some whirring machine drones and ufo sounds. Eventually, we’re taken into space, somebody yells, and we hear a distorted 4/4 groove commence. There are some fun vocal sample manipulations.
‘Fucking Extasy’ cuts to the chase with a distorted shuffle rhythm, it sounds like something is being stapled on an assembly line and amplified to extremes. More alarm tones… vocal sample loops… very distorted, filtered groove. Then the frequencies are expanded. Something like a fucked industrial groove comes on for a little while, but then it goes into speedcore harshness again.
Next up is ‘Vollnarkose’… and, lol, I’m hearing some kind of Eurocheese cover of ‘Over The Rainbow’ with mild distortion, then it goes into rapid-fucking speedcore shit!
We came, we ‘Saw’, we heard some feedback drones and sound effects. It’s like a soundtrack or something at the beginning. Someone’s speaking now. Then a low, gritty, digitized and corroded bass groove with a bit of a mechanical funk comes into the mix. I really like some of the resonant noises that come in next, adding a swinging, funky layer that’s still very abrasive and bizarre. It sounds like people are being tortured later on, or maybe they just don’t like noise?
‘Equibrileum’… sounds kind of dreamy at first, very lovely, fragile, like glass. Some panning kicks come in, a low saw filter washes upon us. I hear a strange, guitar-based dissonance emerge as well, really enjoying the combination of sounds for awhile. A distorted bassline sequence enters… lots of white noise, too, for a shorter time. I hear a voice, kind of low in the mix. Eventually, a lot of the sounds fall away, leaving us with the electro-chatter or whatever that is… then, a grungy, distorted 4/4 kick comes in, in kind of a garbage frequency, with pretty high BPM. After a bit, we return to the soundscape of the beginning…
… ‘Silent Cell’? Totally not silent. A more downtempo distorted bass groove starts the track (well, downtempo at least compared to so many of the other tracks on this album!). It begins to sound very industrial with the addition of a reverberating and snappy snare drum. The bassline that comes in has an almost EBM quality to it, like an early digital synthesizer. Wah-pads are added. Everything drops away, with a few sparse sounds used, and then when we return, it’s just pummeling rhythmic noise. That snare comes back, though! I kind of love that snare, just a little. There’s a synth, kind of an echoing sequence of synth flute/bell or something. But wait, where’s the trance!? Oh, it’s coming up… there’s a bassline sequence that feels very trancy that comes in soon, the tell-tale sound of those layered saw waves.
Prepare yourselves! The time for ‘Bionic Conquest’ is now! Thrusting bass with traces of glitched out sound degradation come in. There’s a sequenced bit of obscure percussive noise. An enjoyable groove is made, slapping you in the face with that snare that gets built into by a reversed *whoosh!*. Then there are some electronic glitching sounds, like samples of someone circuit-bending. These sounds are later sequenced! Kind of cool. Toward the end it gets kind of hardcore, with what could be some kind of guitar noise in the groove.
Finally, we’ve come to the title track, ‘Topsyturvydom’, with an electronic voice and heavy effect treatments leading into an eclectic electro rhythm. There are some ambient drones, all kinds of odd tones, oldschool percussion sounds. I like this track a lot, and it might be my favourite… very spacy…
… the end! As you might expect, if you know my tastes, my preferences were on the side of the noisier and more hardcore/weird tracks… never been much of a trance fan, but like any genre there are always at least a small number of examples that can be found that are enjoyable. Plenty of little surprises throughout this work, though, and it’s meant to be played LOUD. Here’s the link so you can dance all night to the sound of Hypnozyl: