Keywords: Pop, Crunkgaze, Ghost Folk, Post-Whatever, Saucer Step, Trianglecore
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
Ok, it’s not really weird.
It is the future.
In my musical ventures I intuited long ago that there were a lot of artists doing things I liked who were using new technologies in an attempt to make a kind of retro music, — or to re-present the past, using nostalgia as a tool — and that it always sounded very new somehow. We took a different approach, collecting older technologies and techniques to try and make new music, and yet it always sounded very old! At least, that’s how I feel sometimes, though I’m happy as long as I’m exploring anything. Then, I hear things like this album, the works of Zanye East too who I’m hoping to devote some time to exploring more in-depth in review than was possible on Soundcloud… all of the work that escc9 is putting out, actually, and I wonder to myself if all these other routes haven’t soured by now? That this is the way forward, and we’re standing here on the brink of something completely new, a composite of contexts both familiar and alien and so full of promise that it almost makes you ill, like you’ve eaten a lot of sushi and sat yourself upon an amusement park ride on a hot summer day and you wonder what the hell you’ve done and why, now facing your mortality, you did it — but there’s no turning back. So, there’s danger, but also you know that this is an experience you need, that you crave with every fiber of your being; that your utmost desire is to experience life at this full velocity, to take in every sensorial pleasure and malaise at once and fuck the consequences. You feel easy in the knowledge that you’ll never do it quite like this again. You’re reaching past the limits of possibility, the edge of it all has become very real, very tangible.
A long time ago, predictions lay upon fractal maths that time had been in a process of speeding up. All human knowledge was said to be doubling upon itself as we moved toward a singular point in space and time. At this stage, I do not know. That point, too, has passed. Do you notice ways in which music, or any media, no longer feel tied to time? That all there is, is space, and that it is as if time is of no real presence any longer, or that it is perhaps as if the quality of time, of era, is disappearing to be replaced by a sensation of all time simultaneously occurring?
Maybe it’s just me.
Regardless, I feel it is “time” to move, to break free or break apart. This is perhaps what this label and its myriad artists are achieving. 23*23*23*23+1
This is high-art, underground and vital in the here-and-now, if there even is a here-and-now any longer. I felt it would be best to start with this particular album because it seems a good entry point to the future. It possesses something, like a clarity of form maybe? Hard to really speak of clarity with respect to a sound like this. It may be more a clarity of intent. It’s addictive.
The first track is titled ‘Nu Rave’. Here, the genre play. I used to hear people tell me how great it was when Electronic Music was simply Electronic Music, before the advent of genre. Genre was inevitable, however. People insist, out of the primordial soup, on categorization, to develop a sensibility of the catalog, of preferences. Inevitable, also, that genre would become a box, a snare of which so many artists fell prey. Hollywood-ization occurs, formulas become cliches. Out of this came the techno-primitive notions of an impossible return to pre-genrification. It is logical to me that we have reached this nearly concurrent apex, of recognizing, like Hermeticists, that the genres are our playthings, composites of archetypes, meta-tropes that can be bent, twisted, re-configured, to become something fascinating and new, setting the imagination on fire. Distorted, echoing pieces of voice begin the journey, along with a dense kick drum, claps, that gain in tempo alongside sparkling synths, vocoders. Dark, gritty synths. It reminds me almost of Adult. but far more freaky, abandoning narrow, minimal stylism for full on, intense engagement of the senses.
‘Cyborg’ features a grimy kick pulse with cyberpunk pieces of VGM chip arps which are soon followed by heavily effected synth chords and mental vocoders/auto-tuned vocals that feel like they’re vomiting with despair.
When ‘Angels Cry’ comes on, we hear synth pads swell and fall with a distorted bass drum. This feels very post-hardcore, with the hoover synths and throbbing 909, distorted vocals, low-tempo. There’s a thick, chunky clap that I love. The melodic synth bass is just like a delightful shit on my brain. It gets really funky, too. Something about the track feels like a distant relative of late Belgian New Beat / Hard Beat, like Metropolis maybe.
Next is ‘Anywhere Tonight’, with a hollow, gritty acid bassline, disjointed, strangely treated vocals, tiny organ sequence. Very psychedelic electro sound, with an offbeat, offset feel.
‘Once More’ has a resonant alien spaceship sound, leading into a heavy, buzzing bass synthesizer wall, 808 marching on, clips of bizarre vocals layered in. Breaking down the piece, it almost feels like a Plutonian abducted an Ennio Morricone spaghetti-Western soundtrack and had a computer regurgitate its interpretation of what it heard.
‘Touch’ almost has a jazzy, excessively modulated cabaret feel for a moment. Sexy, deep frequencies; disorienting electro acid.
Then, ‘Loveless’, which I’m really enjoying. So many layers to pick apart. This one reminds me a lot of early Front 242 rendered in a lovely way by cold electro zombies. The sampling, the vocals, it feels like being in a dark room with diffuse strobe lights placed at odd angles and flickering at odd intervals.
The next track is ‘Levitate’, with a deep clicking rhythm and a wash of synths with slight LFO, bouncing in my head.
The titular ‘Youth’ features some wild, erratic vocal sample abuse!!! Then there’s a pummeling 4/4 kick drum, a noise-bass sequence that really drills itself into you. It feels like I’m listening to Huoratron. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m loving this.
The final track is ‘Melt Away’, which begins with a minimal sequence, an intense, distorted sing-songy vocal experience, a disco groove.
Step into the vortex with me at the following link, I know you won’t be disappointed: