Metatag = Tangerine Dream + Oneohtrix Point Never + OuOu
Metatag’s tape cover bears a strong resemblance to Joy Division’s classic, Unknown Pleasures, if it were isolated and magnified a couple hundred times. Much like that image of a pulsar CP 1919 radio wave, Metatag plays under a microscope. Often restricted to a handful of repeating melodies undulating and ringing out and full of the warmest, most shimmering digital sounds created sans computer, Transmission also breaks wide open at times with a free-exchange between typical folk instrumentation (guitar, harpsichord) and the siren call of a deep, soulful drone. The who of this 60-plus minute tape is the mysterious Norwegian who goes by the symbol Ɵ, who put out an equally unpronounceable album last year full of dark-ambient soundscapes. This ever-ascending marble staircase of crystalline synths scratches all the itches that tape couldn’t. An album full of John Carpenter melody and repetition without any of the creeping darkness—this is beautiful stuff. –Ryan Hall
Inside the Spectrum
Pas Musique = Nommo Ogo + Scrambles of Earth + Sindre Bjerga
Inside the Spectrum is 10 collages of morphing, undulating beats, guitar drones, manipulated electronics and acoustic instrumentation that, when put through the blender that is Pas Musique, sound like some terrifying, old-god mating call. Inside the Spectrum takes its cues and inspiration from the final frontier, blending in sampled lectures from physics professors and television edutainment from the Space Age that was still trying to understand and explain all of this new technology. What saves this record from another “interesting” (intellectually engaging but emotionally flat) designation is Pas Musique’s bizarro take on classic house, often allowing a 4/4 beat to ride into infinity while seemingly unaffected by the fuck-all weirdness happening around it. At a BPM right around our natural heartbeat, it makes the incomprehensible seem familiar and easily digestible. This album, with 10 tracks at around four to five minutes each, covers an ungodly amount of musical ground without sacrificing listenability. –Ryan Hall
A Gathering Together
Ron Morelli = Corporate Park + Vereker + Violet Poison
While the album title A Gathering Together seems to include the presence and (potential) enjoyment of that company, L.I.E.S label-head Ron Morelli’s latest sounds fully internal, as if ingested and playing out through the hard bone and soft tissues of Morelli’s body—very much removed from any sort of extroverted pleasures. The resulting work is an assemblage of buried synths, scraping metal dirges, pulsing and living gurgles and submerged cellular breathing that rides the bleeding edge between sound-art and dark-ambient. The exhale of waste and filth, the inhale of the same—there is rhythm to this record. It’s a creeping, bottom-feeding rhythm that scrapes its barnacle-y claws along the ocean’s floor but rarely peeks its head above the churning seas of Morelli’s anti-social milieu. It’s transcendental headphone music. –Ryan Hall
The Composite Moods Collection Vol. 1: House Number 44
Blackest Ever Black
Dalhous = Vatican Shadow + Ron Morelli + Gates
For this Scottish duo’s third record, Dalhous create a lurid internal space that explores, they say, “the relationship between two individuals cohabiting the same creative space—their interactions, their sense of self and each other and the pregnant space between.” If the sonic space that they create on this record is any reflection of the real, inhabited space and environ in which Dalhous created House Number 44, it must have been pretty bleak. This album is one of those slow-burning, dark-ambient/broken-techno synthesizer albums that crawls forward with a destination in mind, but takes the long way through some sketchy back alleys to get there. Marc Dall and Alex Ander R.D. are not the first duo to create deeply unsettling music as a method to exorcise bad vibes between two individuals. The legendary drone-duo The Fun Years would reportedly make themselves ill by binging on junk food before recording their dense, magma-like drones in order to put themselves in the proper headspace to create such dense and bodily reactive music.
It is a cliché in music journalism to draw a clean line between mental state and musical output: The Beatles vs. LSD, disco vs. cocaine, EDM vs. MDMA, grunge vs. depression. House Number 44 takes on this body-mind relationship by constructing a loose narrative around the slack mental health of an unreliable protagonist. This narrative, however, does not come in the form of album-arcing storytelling nor overtly expressive, anthropomorphic instrumental flourishes. Rather, the cracked beats, brooding and bleeding mid-range of synthesizers, and washes of oscillating noise sound like an A.V. cable plugged straight into the base of a brain intermittently awash in dopamine or dangerously low in serotonin. The album moves from seething synthscapes of buried piano chords to rhythmic tracks that propel these synthscapes forward—with the rumble of a plague-wind drone winnowing its way throughout the composition in tow. This breaks into sturdy, studio-recorded drums to cracked, broken arpeggios of acid house put through an acid bath.
The track “Running Sheets” is a microcosm of the entire record. Opening with the faraway lapping of screeching, backward tones, it eddies slowly into the placid, low rumble of a distant synthesizer before breaking wide open into the fractured beatscape and ramping tension of mid-’00s cinematic techno or electronic music that’s still played in Eastern Europe. It’s held in uneasy tension with the unexpected non sequiturs of forward-thinking labels like Orange Milk. Dalhous’ home in the Blackest Ever Black stable of psychedelic post-industrial darkness is a bullseye match.
House Number 44 succeeds on two very different fronts: as experimental place-sharing between two musicians and as a loose concept album tracking the internal stimulus of an unpredictable protagonist. The blending and merging of both narratives, however, hearkens back to the body-mind state that I propose earlier. The question that remains is whether the protagonist’s mental states of despondency and bi-polarity birthed in the often maddening way that musicians must interpret abstract brain signals and moods in order to communicate musically; or whether this is another album in that linear connection between the mental states of the creator(s) and the musical output of the record. In any case, House Number 44 is a highly emotional record, troubled with undercurrents that worsen, matching the lability of the troubled mind that it gives voice to—a “composite mood” if there ever was one. –Ryan Hall