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- Magic Smile by Astral Social Club
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Great to get something new in from Astral Social Club, Leeds’s own Neil Campbell, also of Vibracathedral infamy but also cutting pioneering swathes into the astral noise wilderness which have been hugely influential in schooling the current landscape of post-dub, freak-folk and cosmic ambience. This album here could be his most succinct and accessible distillation of that wild, euphoric, freewheeling aesthetic to date.
Opener ‘Rubber Lagg’ starts out euphoric, with muffled, submerged techno gradually getting overcome by squalling, screeching noise, then we’re straight into ‘Mach’, with bright modular beeps and buzzing, rumbling mechanical drones and swooshes for a feel-good bit of repeato madness, then there’s swirls and whooshes and buried plainsong vocals in the title track...the euphoric repeato-ambient pseudo-chaos Campbell is presenting here is reminding me of all sorts of bands - Shit & Shine, Fuck Buttons, Sun Araw, Ashtray Navigations - but it’s a chicken or the egg situation really, isn’t it?
I certainly feel like the Astral Social Club sound is at the most clearly defined and accessible that I’ve heard it on this collection, though, with every track being a compelling journey through bright, accessible, hypnotic melodies topped with lashings of scraping scree and sonic detritus and synthetic twitterings. There’s drifty post-dub flickerings and there’s full-on noise assaults and in-your-face techno euphoria and awkward industrial clanking but even at its most lurid and grotesque it’s always a soundworld that’s inviting, playful, intelligent and soulful. Every one of these eight tracks is a highlight.
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