Volume Uno (2017)

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Bandcamp fodder from Maple Death artist Stromboli — drawn to it by the homography with my second-favourite Rosselini film and the best album art of the year so far. Like a fossilised photograph from the industrial Olympics.

They’ve pitched it with a host of comparisons but VU‘s appeal is the way it coalesces them into a uniquely oppressive but exploratory slab of industrial fuzz.

‘Drag Phase’s’ campy synths emerge behind flat thumping drums which thump flatly away for two minutes before fading out into the subterranean shuffle of ‘Downwards’. Here evoking Immune’s Breathless – one of the best albums of last year, from Dream Catalogue – echoing woodblock-ish droplets and twanging guitars bounce around the mix as the sense of ‘industry’, of mechanisation and repetitive production, grows more tangible.

Fluttering and stuttering, almost every element of ‘Haunted’ is percussive until a guitar starts screeching in the left channel about a third of the way in. I’d love to see this guy live. Acid feedback blasts away in the final third as the mix gets busier and the disorientation stronger. Then ‘Drop’ butts in with a synth cycle like a pitch-shifted Boards of Canada loop with whiteout radio wailing in the right channel. (listen on headphones) Certainly a sense of descent until a scrawling dissipation. Isolation amid thundering factory machinery, trapped in the productive process slowly pulled apart at the seams.

‘White Walls’ opens almost with the bassy synths of Shlohmo’s ‘Teeth‘, giving way to reverberating drum and cymbal loops that, in recalling Cluster’s II, somehow release the pressure and give a sense of (outer-) spatial expansion. ‘Arrows’ fizzes with sunscorched Martin Rev fuzz.

As mentioned, a sense of ‘industrial’ mechanics throughout, but linked with digital tones and looped live instrumentation – this is somehow hi-, mid- and lo-fi all at once, creating a space that is very dense but full of differentiable elements, an imaginative space but also a suggestion of a full band hammering away at various panels or bullied instruments. Some comparison with my early experiences of Andy Stott’s stuff: cavernous, subterranean, Gas in the pipes not the forest.

‘Glow’ doubles down on the Shapednoise undertones with tribal drum blasts and a galloping train which becomes more prominent alongside fluttering bass, pushing the track towards techno territory. ‘Basedow Graves’ concludes with a return to brooding synths and background mournful guitar clatter. Some sense of settling in after 30 minutes but still lost and alienated.

Caustic and cleansing, overall a great listen if a little homogenous. This is only volume uno!

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